~ ‘Perfume’ the story of a murderer~

perfume

Jean Baptiste Grenouille is a name not easy to forget. His unique job is to obtain, categorize, replicate and produce his very own human scent beyond the realms of scientific discovery. To me, the concept in itself was captivating….

“Odours have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odour cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”

Jean Baptiste is an orphan with no undefinable human smell which isolates him from society. His rare talent of pin pointing exact components, from brass doorknobs, wood, decaying fruit allows too him to pursue his passion. Under the guidance of the best perfumers in the world (through trickery, cunning or just brute honestly he manages to secure a place with them. It shows how unlucky Jean Baptiste is however- whoever he encounters meet their own sticky ends, which you could argue contributes to the author’s humour.) This cunning, yet seemingly straight forward character is able to combine and create his own ‘bottled’ scents with the single purpose of exciting disgust, or adoration from the general public.

Since the realm of scent is so understated (and I as one would admit to having just an average capability of smell, and eye-sight for that matter!) as we are able to create images from words, wonderful pieces of art, music- he can draw upon any scent in the world and strip it down to its bare elements not only to simply ‘recreate’ something he smelt only once, but create something new, unexpected. Quite inspiring really. But let’s not stop there.

As he grows older, his existence becomes almost animistic. “No longer distracted by anything external, he basked in his own existence and found it splendid.” He lives alone in a cave for many, long years, sustained by nothing but his ‘memory’ of lifelong scents, one day alone of which would drive any sane person mad, but not he. It becomes an obsession that overtakes even daily needs, an obsession which drives him to murder, again and again.

Grenouille knew for certain that unless he possessed this scent, his life would have no meaning.”

In fact, the novel is abundant with disgusting imagery of blood and decay, and most significantly, the perverse. He is systematic and logical, feeling no remorse for his actions and yet you sway between horror and desire to see him reach his goal of obtaining the ‘optimum’ scent – which by the way he does by killing all the beautiful girls in the city and embalming their skin.

I found the writing style to be witty, and fresh. Overall, I read this book in a few days and was really interested to read more of Patrick Süskind’s works. Though I had seen the movie originally and remembered liking it, it had definitely changed and diminished in my eyes after reading the novel. Nothing can be expressed better than through the author’s own words and intended voice, humour, tone, and ‘Perfume’ is no exception.

{The novel was originally written in German entitled ‘Das Parfum‘ in 1985, later translated and made into a film in 2006}

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