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on 7 April 2012
I'm not one to give away too much about a book in a review, but I will try my best to be concise with the facts. Ok, so Pigeon was written after the great success of Perfume, in a similar French/Parisian setting. But, the novella retains the same language structure Suskind uses in Perfume in order to aid the reader with their imagination. Beautiful words to denote the beautiful setting. The syntax style is - as ever - in top form. The irony is it's about Jonathan's pigeon fear, yet the book is far more in depth than that. Jonathan is an average guy who has lead a standard life, happy just trimming by never challenging his thoughts or his inner self, always repressed. The pigeon changes all of that, it brings back his childhood trauma's & fears which must be faced and dealt with. All this takes place in the space of a day, similar style of Ulysses, except the novella is much more enjoyable as opposed to bearable due to the writing style. The pigeon itself is a direct representation of the break down in Jonathan's daily routine, his very existance is in question. The constant use of poo rimmed floors and walls is the chaos the pigeon causes to Jonathan and his sanity. Which, in turn, forces him to re-evaluate his life and think about what his next step should be. Disappointingly, he decides the only way out of the poo infested one bedroom apartment, away from the vermin filled pigeons, is by committing suicide. Most unfortunate that the ending is rather abrupt, however, not in the way the Novella leads you to believe. Once again, although it is a very short story, it's a great follow up. The novella resembles a fable like tale, accept the pigeon does not do the talking or the telling, it instead leaves it's excretement about and the rest must be deciphered by us! A great read, but I'm a biased Patrick Suskind fan. Hope you enjoy
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on 14 June 2005
After a rocky childhood as a result of World War II, Jonathan Noel had a good two decades of plain existence. He has been renting a room for that time and even though he does not even have a private bathroom he has decided to buy it. He works as doorman at a bank and day after day he follows the exact same schedule. But now that he is in his fifties, things are about to change.
One Friday morning in the month of August 1984, while he was on his way to the bathroom, Jonathan sees a pigeon outside the door of his room and goes into panic. He is afraid that pigeons will overtake the apartment and he does not dare kill it. The pigeon causes a revolution in the main character's life that is baffling, but the metaphor is hard to miss. Jonathan embarks in a series of crazy plans to evade the object that causes his strain, going as far as moving into a hotel, even though he cannot afford it.
Once more Suskind shows his ability for delving into the psyche of his characters and providing his readers with awesome insight. When we add to this author's writing ability to the mix, the result is more than satisfactory. This book in particular reminded me of the works of my favorite writer, Dostoevsky, since the Russian's main characters often enter a vicious circle in which they thinking something bad will happen and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which can only be prevented through great determination and effort. For those that have not read Suskind before, this is a good a place to start as any, and of course, make sure to not disregard his masterpiece "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer". Those that do know him already understand what I am talking about!
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on 2 August 2010
`The Pigeon' is a strange little tale in many ways. In only 77 pages Süskind gives you a rather unusual and momentous day in the life of Jonathan Noel. What makes this work all the more is that in the first five pages you have pretty much been given his life, which equates to his parents vanishing, living with horrid relatives, serving for the army and then having thirty years of the utterly mundane and simply working to eat and by a room with a shared toilet in Paris. That is until the day a pigeon is sat on his doorstep as he tries to go to the bathroom, something that causes Jonathan to have a complete nervous breakdown, to both comic and emotional extremes, which seems to have been waiting to happen for forty or so years.

I don't want to say any more as being a novella my review could easily go on for as long as the book and I don't want to give anymore away. I will say as Jonathan's day slowly got worse I found myself both laughing more and worrying more all at once. I also really empathized with him because of how Süskind writes his emotions and frustrations. When he rips his trousers you are completely there with him, you know how it feels - the humilation, the anger at the trousers and then at yourself, it's very well done.

I couldn't compare it to `Perfume' but then I wouldn't want to. I don't think you can compare any two works of one author especially when one is as successful as `Perfume'. I can say that `The Pigeon' has reminded me why I love Perfume so much, Süskind can put you into the mind of people who at first seem ordinary and show you all their quirks, he can also take you to beautiful cities like Paris and darken them with his words without making anything grandly gothic or overdone. It will also have you wondering what small incident or happening could change your life forever.
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on 12 July 2002
Having read Perfume some years back I was intrigued by Pigeon would it be as memorable ? Having devoured it in one sitting I can say his work is just as visually intense as Perfume and from an emotional viewpoint you wonder about the earlier parts of our security guard's life as the story although good could have been longer... or is that just greedy?
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on 29 August 2016
Jonathan Noel is a French bank guard who, for decades, has lived a very orderly and timid, almost non-existence which is one day shattered when a pigeon appears in his apartment building’s hallway. Patrick Suskind’s novella takes the reader through a day in this quiet man’s life as his mind unravels…

I really liked Suskind’s Perfume but his follow-up, The Pigeon, is underwhelming. Comparisons to Kafka and Poe are a bit much but this is still a well-written story even if it’s not the most gripping. From his nightmarish encounter with the pigeon, Jonathan Noel misses opening the gate for his boss’s limo - his only real responsibility in his monotonous bank guard job - watches a clochard (French homeless man) on the street, and tears his trousers. Where do writers get their ideas, eh?

But obviously there’s subtext to all of this. We learn from the beginning that Jonathan Noel’s parents were killed by the Nazis in WW2 and that his wife left him for another man - it’s likely that the character’s deliberately isolated, routine and dull life is a reaction to that trauma. If he’s alone, if he doesn’t rely on anyone, he can’t be hurt by abandonment. The introduction of the pigeon upsets his delicate equilibrium and forces him into action, something he’s avoided doing almost his entire life.

Maybe Suskind is suggesting that we shouldn’t let fear (represented by the pigeon) stand in our way from living a full life - that reaching out to people, while leading to uncertainty, is a necessary step on the way to happiness and that a little chaos is always needed? Maybe he’s pointing out that the trauma the Nazis inflicted on Europe echoes through the years? Maybe it’s just a character portrait without a message?

Either way, the novella doesn’t leave much of an impression and at times its knowing literariness compounds that obliqueness: I noticed the parallels between the pigeon and the clochard pooping, Jonathan Noel’s meal of fish, bread, fruit and wine is like the clochard’s, and he walks through the rain barefoot as a child and then later with shoes as an adult. All fine and good but I don’t understand the parallels, except maybe the barefoot/shoes thing - the shoes are a barrier between him and the outside world reinforcing how protected he is now compared to how carefree he once was. I feel like the novella’s trying to say something more but it doesn’t achieve it.

The Pigeon is well-written and that alone keeps the reader engaged through Suskind’s psychological character portrait regardless of the mundane anti-story. But it’s not the most fascinating subject matter and the unfocused, meandering nature of the narrative left me unsatisfied and unsure of what to make of it as a whole. The Pigeon is certainly unusual but fans of Perfume shouldn’t expect the same kind of brilliance in this slighter effort.
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on 31 July 2015
Süskind, Patrick. The Pigeon (translated from the German Die Taube by John E Woods)

The story of Jonathan Noel’s encounter with a pigeon in his Paris flat is extraordinary and banal in equal measures. The account is told by an omniscient narrator whose viewpoint and diction merge obliquely into those of Jonathan himself. Thus he despairs of the concierge, Madame Rocard: ‘She’s just a concierge and her job is just to sweep the halls and the stairway and to clean the shared toilet once a week, but not to rout pigeons. By this afternoon at the latest she’ll be drunk on vermouth and have forgotten the entire affair.’ But for the most part the narrator sticks to the ‘facts’, the main one being Jonathan’s immaculate devotion to order and time-keeping, which the stray pigeon has utterly desecrated.

The tale is compressed into 24 hours and 100 pages, as compressed as is the hero himself into a bunkhouse that admits minimal light and comfort, for Jonathan is an aesthete devoted to his work as a security guard positioned on the bank’s staircase, a post he has occupied for 30 years. To say that he is a lonely repressed old man would be an understatement. Boiling within is anger, rage at pedestrians, and at ‘those good-for-nothing young, stupid waiters, who loitered among the tables and chairs, the louts babbling and grinning and smirking … And then the drivers! Stupid monkeys in their stinking tin crates … Do you have to use the last bit of breathable air, suck it into your motors and burn it up and blow it back, mixed with poison and soot and hot fumes, into the noses of respectable citizens?’ Jonathan has visions of shooting them all, even shooting up ‘the whole dreary, loud, stinking world.’ But, the narrator informs us ‘He was nor a man of action. He was a man of resignation.’

The interior monologues of Jonathan Noel’s Paris nightmare encompass terror at failing to be on duty when his boss arrives, meetings with a clochard whom he envies and a seamstress whom he unavailingly begs to sew up a rip in his trousers. All of this angst and anxiety is released by the pigeon which haunts the passage and drives him into hotel accommodation. The reader is drawn into each catastrophe in the life of this shy, conventional little man who bears within him the seeds of a potential murderer.
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on 4 July 2010
This story has fantastic pace, wonderful descriptions and lures the reader in with a truly dark insight to the character's mind - all taking place in the space of a day..
Brilliant!
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on 4 November 2013
I loved this book. It is incredibly short and to be honest very little actually happens but I am quite a fan of reading about the banalities of day to day life. It starts off by giving a slight background about the main character to set the scene before he realises that a pigeon is outside of his room and therefore he needs to leave his place of living to escape it. We go through his day where lots of things happen which puts a negative on it, before getting wet in a storm and deciding everything will be ok and he goes home.
It is an incredibly sweet story with a happy ending that puts you in a feel good mood after reading, with some beautiful descriptions and prose.
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on 18 May 1999
I fell across this book by accident but am I glad i did, it is such a moving account of a short period in one man's life, a man who doesn't have much at all, but proves to hold your interest intensely. Read it and feel like your there.
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on 18 August 2013
Although not as good as Perfume, still an interesting book with a very unusual story.
Was quick to read as it's not very long. Fast delivery and good condition for being a used copy.
Only thing was that the image is not necessarily the edition you will get, encase you want certain
editions it won't be the one that is pictured. Would use seller again.
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