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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Penguin Essentials) Paperback – 1 Apr 2010
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About the Author
Patrick Süskind was born near Munich in 1949 and studied medieval and modern history at the University of Munich. His first play, The Double Bass, was written in 1980 and became an international success. His first novel, Perfume was also an internationally acclaimed bestseller and continues to be considered a classic.
He is also the author of The Pigeon and Mr. Summer's Story, and a coauthor of the enormously successful German television series Kir Royal. Patrick Süskind lives and writes in Munich.
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It's quite hard to even begin to describe this book to someone who hasn't read it. You will never have read another anything like it. The story line is very strange. The book is sensuous and very beautifully written. Read the first few pages on here and you will see what I mean.
I can't say I would recommend this book to a friend as it is very unconventional and I would be worried they would think I was a bit twisted. But I absolutely loved it and I wish I'd written it. In fact it is a very strong contender for my #1 favourite book ever. If you read it, you'll never forget it.
A very unusual but gripping tale, I must say. Well written, definitely.
This is the story of Grenouille, a baby born without hopes and left on a pile of rubbish by his own mother. Certain death, especially in 1738, would be expected but does not happen. Against all odds, Grenouille survives and grows up with a very distinctive feature: his olfactory system. From infancy, no scent, no smell, unpleasant or otherwise, escapes his nostrils. He categorizes each one of them and an endless sort of data base is stored in his brain.
A very inconspicuous fellow, without distinctive features, he is able to survive in a world that has deceived him from day one. And in turn, in his profound uneasiness, he becomes the deceiver. Little by little he starts to realise that his olfactory ability is indeed something that could turn useful, one day. Something for which people would appreciate him perhaps. Real love, real affection, he does not know. Perhaps he yearns for it. But in reality, he loathes people and is comfortable in his loneliness. And one day (he's about 12 by now) he picks up a faint scent in the air that he cannot name but gives him an incredible yearning. An irresistible urge to find the source of that scent and an infallible nose lead him to that source.....
From then on, a lot else happens. And Grenouille, that fragile, plain, indistinct, shadowy and secretive being takes us from one side of France to the next on a twisted olfactory errand. It is impossible not to be awed by this very distinctive feature of his. With it, when `utilized' properly, he is able to do wonders. But it is equally impossible not to commiserate him, not to feel sorry for a very lonely, lost soul even though his malignant twist cannot but horrify us.
A very unusual, disturbing story. A story where smell, stench, scent or delicate perfume mingle and replace our eyes and ears. I bet that this book will make you think about some veritable concepts contained here: i.e. our olfactory system has an incredible memory. Lost loves, Granny's apple pie, baby days, all it takes is a whiff of something we smelled before and we are travelling back in time...
If some nuances were lost in translation (from German) I do not know, but I found the prose stylish and entertaining. A 5 stars book from the beginning. My only disappointment came towards the end. An end which probably befits the whole medieval, grotesque tale but it was way, way too far fetched in my opinion (hence the 4 stars). Still, well worth reading it as it has the quality of a classic.
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