Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Perfume: The Story of
a Murderer

Patrick Süskind
Translated by:
John E. Woods

Published 1985

First Sentence
"In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages."

Publisher's Description:

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind's classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man's indulgence in his greatest passion — his sense of smell — leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift — an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume" — the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

Translated from the German by John E. Woods.

Dear Reader,

This was fantastic, another book I've read this year that will be placed into my favorites. he author did an amazing job making you believe you were reading something written in that time period, and kudos to the translator for keeping it that way! This book was really dark and disturbing, the way I like it. Jean Baptiste Grenouille, a child born into a pile of trash (literally - under a gutting table), grows up with the talent of an extreme sense of smell (and I mean EXTREME). He is obsessed with smells, wants to experience the unusual, bottle them up, discover them. The writing is so descriptive that you can almost smell the words on the page. I still can't get over the writing... it was so freakin' good.

I'll tell you this much, I learned sooo much more about the perfume industry and history than I ever would have thought. Yes, there is a proper way to smell it... in a gaseous state (never as a concentrate). Or even:
"The second rule is: perfume lives in time; it has its youth, its maturity, and its old age. And only if it gives off a scent equally pleasant at all three different stages of its life, can it be called successful."
It almost reminds me of wine tastings and all the complexity that goes with it. After reading about the process, I wanted to set up my very own perfume laboratory in my basement, such a romantic art form. However, don't let Grenouille and the subject matter of perfume fool you! This book is sinister and at times painful to read (due to the descriptive nature of the Author). I felt bad for Grenouille, the author really brings out the sympathy in his character (even with his ghastly side). As beautiful as it is reading about France in the olden days, the reality also creeps in with a force. Grenouille realizes the power of scent:
"Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor 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."
That was one of my favorite lines in the book, and overall gives you a pretty good idea of what you'll find if you decide to read this one. I would suggest this to fans of "Les Miserables" or "Zombie" by Joyce Carol Oates.  

Happy Reading,

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

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