Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375725845
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2001
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: First Vintage International Edition
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 32,127
Product dimensions: 5.17(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Patrick S skind is a German writer and screenwriter, known best for his internationally famous novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, first published during 1985.

British audiobook narrator and AudioFile Earphones Award winner Nigel Patterson has many credits as a stage, screen, and voice-over actor that influence his powerful characterization across a broad range of genres. A graduate of the University of Oxford, he is fluent in French and Spanish.

Read an Excerpt

1

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. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name-in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade's, for instance, or Saint-Just's, Fouch?'s, Bonaparte's, etc.-has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, to wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent.

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber pots. The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master's wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter. For in the eighteenth century there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition, and so there was no human activity, either constructive or destructive, no manifestation of germinating or decaying life that was not accompanied by stench.

And of course the stench was foulest in Paris, for Paris was the largest city of France. And in turn there was a spot in Paris under the sway of a particularly fiendish stench: between the rue aux Fers and the rue de la Ferronnerie, the Cimeti?re des Innocents to be exact. For eight hundred years the dead had been brought here from the H?tel-Dieu and from the surrounding parish churches, for eight hundred years, day in, day out, corpses by the dozens had been carted here and tossed into long ditches, stacked bone upon bone for eight hundred years in the tombs and charnel houses. Only later-on the eve of the Revolution, after several of the grave pits had caved in and the stench had driven the swollen graveyard's neighbors to more than mere protest and to actual insurrection-was it finally closed and abandoned. Millions of bones and skulls were shoveled into the catacombs of Montmartre and in its place a food market was erected.

Here, then, on the most putrid spot in the whole kingdom, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born on July 17, 1738. It was one of the hottest days of the year. The heat lay leaden upon the graveyard, squeezing its putrefying vapor, a blend of rotting melon and the fetid odor of burnt animal horn, out into the nearby alleys. When the labor pains began, Grenouille's mother was standing at a fish stall in the rue aux Fers, scaling whiting that she had just gutted. The fish, ostensibly taken that very morning from the Seine, already stank so vilely that the smell masked the odor of corpses. Grenouille's mother, however, perceived the odor neither of the fish nor of the corpses, for her sense of smell had been utterly dulled, besides which her belly hurt, and the pain deadened all susceptibility to sensate impressions. She only wanted the pain to stop, she wanted to put this revolting birth behind her as quickly as possible. It was her fifth. She had effected all the others here at the fish booth, and all had been stillbirths or semi-stillbirths, for the bloody meat that emerged had not differed greatly from the fish guts that lay there already, nor had lived much longer, and by evening the whole mess had been shoveled away and carted off to the graveyard or down to the river. It would be much the same this day, and Grenouille's mother, who was still a young woman, barely in her mid-twenties, and who still was quite pretty and had almost all her teeth in her mouth and some hair on her head and-except for gout and syphilis and a touch of consumption-suffered from no serious disease, who still hoped to live a while yet, perhaps a good five or ten years, and perhaps even to marry one day and as the honorable wife of a widower with a trade or some such to bear real children . . . Grenouille's mother wished that it were already over. And when the final contractions began, she squatted down under the gutting table and there gave birth, as she had done four times before, and cut the newborn thing's umbilical cord with her butcher knife. But then, on account of the heat and the stench, which she did not perceive as such but only as an unbearable, numbing something-like a field of lilies or a small room filled with too many daffodils-she grew faint, toppled to one side, fell out from under the table into the street, and lay there, knife in hand.

Tumult and turmoil. The crowd stands in a circle around her, staring, someone hails the police. The woman with the knife in her hand is still lying in the street. Slowly she comes to.

What has happened to her?

"Nothing."

What is she doing with that knife?

"Nothing."

Where does the blood on her skirt come from?

"From the fish."

She stands up, tosses the knife aside, and walks off to wash.

And then, unexpectedly, the infant under the gutting table begins to squall. They have a look, and beneath a swarm of flies and amid the offal and fish heads they discover the newborn child. They pull it out. As prescribed by law, they give it to a wet nurse and arrest the mother. And since she confesses, openly admitting that she would definitely have let the thing perish, just as she had with those other four by the way, she is tried, found guilty of multiple infanticide, and a few weeks later decapitated at the place de Gr?ve.

By that time the child had already changed wet nurses three times. No one wanted to keep it for more than a couple of days. It was too greedy, they said, sucked as much as two babies, deprived the other sucklings of milk and them, the wet nurses, of their livelihood, for it was impossible to make a living nursing just one babe. The police officer in charge, a man named La Fosse, instantly wearied of the matter and wanted to have the child sent to a halfway house for foundlings and orphans at the far end of the rue Saint-Antoine, from which transports of children were dispatched daily to the great public orphanage in Rouen. But since these convoys were made up of porters who carried bark baskets into which, for reasons of economy, up to four infants were placed at a time; since therefore the mortality rate on the road was extraordinarily high; since for that reason the porters were urged to convey only baptized infants and only those furnished with an official certificate of transport to be stamped upon arrival in Rouen; since the babe Grenouille had neither been baptized nor received even so much as a name to inscribe officially on the certificate of transport; since, moreover, it would not have been good form for the police anonymously to set a child at the gates of the halfway house, which would have been the only way to dodge the other formalities . . . thus, because of a whole series of bureaucratic and administrative difficulties that seemed likely to occur if the child were shunted aside, and because time was short as well, officer La Fosse revoked his original decision and gave instructions for the boy to be handed over on written receipt to some ecclesiastical institution or other, so that there they could baptize him and decide his further fate. He got rid of him at the cloister of Saint-Merri in the rue Saint-Martin. There they baptized him with the name Jean-Baptiste. And because on that day the prior was in a good mood and the eleemosynary fund not yet exhausted, they did not have the child shipped to Rouen, but instead pampered him at the cloister's expense. To this end, he was given to a wet nurse named Jeanne Bussie who lived in the rue Saint-Denis and was to receive, until further notice, three francs per week for her trouble.

2

A few weeks later, the wet nurse Jeanne Bussie stood, market basket in hand, at the gates of the cloister of Saint-Merri, and the minute they were opened by a bald monk of about fifty with a light odor of vinegar about him-Father Terrier-she said "There!" and set her market basket down on the threshold.

"What's that?" asked Terrier, bending down over the basket and sniffing at it, in the hope that it was something edible.

"The bastard of that woman from the rue aux Fers who killed her babies!"

The monk poked about in the basket with his finger till he had exposed the face of the sleeping infant.

"He looks good. Rosy pink and well nourished."

"Because he's stuffed himself on me. Because he's pumped me dry down to the bones. But I've put a stop to that. Now you can feed him yourselves with goat's milk, with pap, with beet juice. He'll gobble up anything, that bastard will."

Father Terrier was an easygoing man. Among his duties was the administration of the cloister's charities, the distribution of its moneys to the poor and needy. And for that he expected a thank-you and that he not be bothered further. He despised technical details, because details meant difficulties and difficulties meant ruffling his composure, and he simply would not put up with that. He was upset that he had even opened the gate. He wished that this female would take her market basket and go home and let him alone with her suckling problems. Slowly he straightened up, and as he did he breathed the scent of milk and cheesy wool exuded by the wet nurse. It was a pleasant aroma.

"I don't understand what it is you want. I really don't understand what you're driving at. I can only presume that it would certainly do no harm to this infant if he were to spend a good while yet lying at your breast."

"None to him," the wet nurse snarled back, "but plenty to me. I've lost ten pounds and been eating like I was three women. And for what? For three francs a week!"

"Ah, I understand," said Terrier, almost relieved. "I catch your drift. Once again, it's a matter of money."

"No!" said the wet nurse.

"Of course it is! It's always a matter of money. When there's a knock at this gate, it's a matter of money. Just once I'd like to open it and find someone standing there for whom it was a matter of something else. Someone, for instance, with some little show of thoughtfulness. Fruit, perhaps, or a few nuts. After all, in autumn there are lots of things someone could come by with. Flowers maybe. Or if only someone would simply come and say a friendly word. 'God bless you, Father Terrier, I wish you a good day!' But I'll probably never live to see it happen. If it isn't a beggar, it's a merchant, and if it isn't a merchant, it's a tradesman, and if it isn't alms he wants, then he presents me with a bill. I can't even go out into the street anymore. When I go out on the street, I can't take three steps before I'm hedged in by folks wanting money!"

"Not me," said the wet nurse.

"But I'll tell you this: you aren't the only wet nurse in the parish. There are hundreds of excellent foster mothers who would scramble for the chance of putting this charming babe to their breast for three francs a week, or to supply him with pap or juices or whatever nourishment . . ."

"Then give him to one of them!"

". . . On the other hand, it's not good to pass a child around like that. Who knows if he would flourish as well on someone else's milk as on yours. He's used to the smell of your breast, as you surely know, and to the beat of your heart."

And once again he inhaled deeply of the warm vapors streaming from the wet nurse.

But then, noticing that his words had made no impression on her, he said, "Now take the child home with you! I'll speak to the prior about all this. I shall suggest to him that in the future you be given four francs a week."

"No," said the wet nurse.

"All right-five!"

"No."

"How much more do you want, then?" Terrier shouted at her. "Five francs is a pile of money for the menial task of feeding a baby."

I don't want any money, period," said the wet nurse. "I want this bastard out of my house."

"But why, my good woman?" said Terrier, poking his finger in the basket again. "He really is an adorable child. He's rosy pink, he doesn't cry, and he's been baptized."

"He's possessed by the devil."

Terrier quickly withdrew his finger from the basket.

"Impossible! It is absolutely impossible for an infant to be possessed by the devil. An infant is not yet a human being; it is a prehuman being and does not yet possess a fully developed soul. Which is why it is of no interest to the devil. Can he talk already, perhaps? Does he twitch and jerk? Does he move things about in the room? Does some evil stench come from him?"

"He doesn't smell at all," said the wet nurse.

"And there you have it! That is a clear sign. If he were possessed by the devil, then he would have to stink."

And to soothe the wet nurse and to put his own courage to the test, Terrier lifted the basket and held it up to his nose.

"I smell absolutely nothing out of the ordinary," he said after he had sniffed for a while, "really nothing out of the ordinary. Though it does appear as if there's an odor coming from his diapers." And he held out the basket to her so that she could confirm his opinion.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A fable of crimial genius.... Remarkable." —The New York Times

"Mesmerizing from first page to last.... A highly sophisticated horror tale." —The Plain Dealer

"A supremely accomplished work of art, marvelously crafted and enjoyable and rich in historical detail." —The San Francisco Chronicle

"An original and astonishing novel." —People

"An ingenious story...about a most exotic monster.... Suspense build up steadily." —Los Angeles Times

"Immensely seductive.... Storytelling at its best." —The Kansas City Star

Reading Group Guide

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Patrick Süskind's Perfume. We hope they will provide you with a variety of approaches to this vividly imagined historical novel. Set in eighteenth-century France, Perfume explores the evolution of a remorseless killer during an era of intense contradictions, an age in which poverty, filth, and superstition coexisted uneasily with the Enlightenment's ideals of progress, liberty, and reason.

1. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in a food market that had been erected above the Cimetiere des Innocents, the "most putrid spot in the whole kingdom" [p. 4]. He barely escapes death at his birth; his mother would have let him die among the fish guts as she had her four other children. But Grenouille miraculously survives. How would you relate the circumstances of his birth to the life he grows up to live?

2. When the wet nurse refuses to keep Grenouille because he has no smell and therefore must be a "child of the devil" [p. 11], Father Terrier takes him in. But he is exasperated. He has tried to combat "the superstitious notions of the simple folk: witches and fortune-telling cards, the wearing of amulets, the evil eye, exorcisms, hocus-pocus at full moon, and all the other acts they performed" [p. 14]. In what ways can Perfume be read as a critique of the eighteenth century's conception of itself as the Age of Reason? Where else in the novel do you find rationality being overcome by baser human instincts?

3. Throughout the novel, Grenouille is likened to a tick. Why do you think Süskind chose this analogy? In what ways does Grenouille behave like a tick? What does this analogy reveal about his character that a more straightforward description would not?

4. Grenouille is born with a supernaturally developed sense of smell. He can smell the approach of a thunderstorm when there's not a cloud in the sky and wonders why there is only one word for smoke when "from minute to minute, second to second, the amalgam of hundreds of odors mixed iridescently into ever new and changing unities as the smoke rose from the fire" [p. 25]. He can store and synthesize thousands of odors within himself and re-create them at will. How do you interpret this extraordinary ability? Do you think such a sensitivity to odor is physically possible? Do you feel Süskind wants us to read his novel as a kind of fable or allegory? Why do you think Süskind chose to build his novel around the sense of smell instead of one of the other senses?

5. What motivates Grenouille to commit his first murder? What does he discover about himself and his destiny after he has killed the red-haired girl?

6. Do the descriptions of life in eighteenth-century France—the crowded quarters, the unsanitary conditions, the treatment of orphans, the punishment of criminals, etc.—surprise you? How are these conditions related to the ideals of enlightenment, reason, and progress that figure so prominently in eighteenth-century thinking?

7. The perfumer Baldini initially regards Grenouille with contempt. He explains, "Whatever the art or whatever the craft—and make a note of this before you go!—talent means next to nothing, while experience, acquired in humility and with hard work, means everything" [p. 74]. And yet Grenouille is able to concoct the most glorious perfumes effortlessly and with no previous experience or training. What do you think the novel as a whole conveys about the relationship between genius and convention, creativity and destruction, chaos and order?

8. The narrator remarks, "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" [p. 82]. Do you think this is true? Why would an odor have such power? In what ways does Grenouille use this power to his advantage?

9. Some reviewers have claimed that the Süskind's writing in Perfume is "verbose and theatrical," while others have described it as "sensuous and supple." Clearly, the writing is more extravagantly imaginative than the pared down minimalism of much recent American fiction. How do you respond to Süskind's prose? How do you respond to the critical reactions outlined above?

10. Grenouille is introduced as "one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages" [p. 3]. Does Süskind manage to make him a sympathetic character, in spite of his murders and obsessions? Or do you find him wholly repellent? How might you explain Grenouille's actions? To what extent do his experiences shape his behavior? Do you think he is inherently evil?

11. When Grenouille emerges from his self-imposed seven-year exile, he is brought to the attention of the marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, whose theory that "life could develop only at a certain distance from the earth, since the earth itself constantly emits a corrupting gas, a so-called fluidum letale, which lames vital energies and sooner or later totally extinguishes them" [pp. 139 - 140] seems to explain Grenouille's sad condition. This theory also contends that all living creatures therefore "endeavor to distance themselves from the earth by growing" upwards and away from the earth [p. 140]. What attitudes and beliefs is Süskind satirizing through the character of Taillade-Espinasse?

12. Grenouille becomes, toward the end of the novel, a kind of olfactory vampire, killing young women to rob them of their scents. "What he coveted was the odor of certain human beings: that is, those rare humans who inspire love. These were his victims" [p. 188]. Why does he need the scents of these people?

13. In the novel's climatic scene, just as Grenouille is about to be executed, he uses the perfume he's created to turn the townspeople's hatred for him into love and to inspire an orgy which collapses class distinctions and pairs "grandfather with virgin, odd-jobber with lawyer's spouse, apprentice with nun, Jesuit with Freemason's wife—all topsy-turvy, just as opportunity presented" [p. 239]. Grenouille is revered and regards himself as godlike in this triumph. Does he enjoy this moment, or is it a hollow victory? What is the novel suggesting about the nature of human love? About order and disorder?

14. After Grenouille leaves the town of Grasse, where he has caused so much death and suffering, his case is officially closed and we're told, "The town had forgotten it in any event, forgotten it so totally that travelers who passed through in the days that followed and casually inquired about Grasse's infamous murderer of young maidens found not a single sane person who could give them any information" [p. 247]. Why do the townspeople react this way? Why isn't it possible for them to integrate what has happened into their daily consciousness?

15. How do you interpret the novel's ending, as Grenouille returns to the Cimetiere des Innocents and allows himself to be murdered and eaten by the criminals who loiter there? What ironies are suggested by the narrator's assertion that Grenouille's killers had just done something, for the first time, "out of love" [p. 255]?

16. Perfume is set in eighteenth-century France and tells an extravagant story of a man possessed with a magical sense of smell and a bizarrely destructive obsession. Do its historical setting and fantastic elements make it harder or easier to identify with? What contemporary issues and anxieties does the story illuminate?

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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 182 reviews.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
This is the fist book I have picked up from the thread of recommended reading at Eat Poo, and what a fantastic pick it was. Already I had heard from numerous pooers that the book was a good one, so I really had little debating to do. In fact the hardest decision was whether to pick this up first or ¿The Time Traveller¿s Wife¿ (I picked both up, when I was not able to make up my mind).

In a stroke of genius on the part of the author, this story unfolds tackling the most literally unexplored of our senses¿that is the sense of smell. From beginning to end, there is so many scents to gather in from this book, that you could nearly tire your nose at it. For the first time I found myself understanding a story or a setting or a character not so much by what they look like, or what they are wearing but rather by the way things smell.

Mr. Suskind does a fabulous job telling the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born in 18th Century France with a superior sense of smell, but no actual scent of his own. Out-casted and ignored for reasons people around Grenouille can not understand, the child is slowly shaped into an individual that learns not to trust or count on anybody, hardening his heart and shaping himself to eventually become a king of his own empire¿the realm of the scent. Driven by his uncanny abilities, Grenouille sets out to create the world¿s most perfect smell and use it to his advantage.

What ensues is one of the most interesting, curious, strangest stories I have ever read, while also quite disturbing and morbidly erotic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't want to give away any of the story here, so I'll just say that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy. You won't regret it!
Sicert More than 1 year ago
All you guys missed the point,....the only "crime" in this novel is the iconic need hidden in all our souls,...to be loved,... !!! Yes,...awesome metaphor,....nicely hidden by Peter Suskind,...remember how ugly Grenouille was,..rejected, never loved, understood,....etc ! The very first thing what he did was to make the scent which made him "invisible",....and his suffering, because of rejection by any other man, women, child,...stopped ! Than he comes with idea to make the scent which will turn the people to love him,.....and woala,....it happend,... but on the end very badly for him,.... if this need is enormous,..unnatural,...and same is happening with us too,...!! So, don't search for maniacs, horror,....crime,..these are only "instruments" to tell the remarkable story about need to be Loved !
A-Cane More than 1 year ago
I have read this book three times, both in English & Spanish. Both versions are wonderful. The details & descriptions transport you to every scene the author depicts in the most intrinsic way.
IMPetus More than 1 year ago
I would describe this as tasteful macabre. The prose is both fluid and florid, maintaining an edge of sophistication throughout, which in itself is quite impressive. The language is reflective of an elevated speaker, perhaps being simply the style of the time in which it was written, and the tone is very appropriate. The elements of suspense is handled masterfully and without a doubt one of the most accomplished works of mystery. I unfortunately discovered the great secret via a spoiler, but it remains nonetheless intelligent. Suskind has a penchant of describing the seemingly grotesque in an interesting fashion, so as to create a juxtaposition between the elegance of perfume and the ugliness of the human world. Highly recommended.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in late 19th Century France to parents who is rejected by his parents and all who would otherwise want a little baby to nourish and cherish. The few who do encounter him as a baby note that he smells "evil," like an abomination, whatever that means; it turns out he literally has no smell to him, unlike other sweet babies. But Grenouille survives the rejection of a woman, priest and others to discover that his total way of appreciating the world is through the unique sense of smell that HE has. For he can recognize any object or person by smell, and this is what feeds his soul and sets his identity - that is until the day he encounters a wholly new intoxicating smell. What he will do upon reaching the source of that lovely odor will shock the reader to the core of his or her mind and heart! Grenouille is now a changed man and seeks to create perfumes that will entrance other as he has been enraptured. But how he will do it is both mesmerizing and shocking, again and again. For creating the perfect perfume makes him even more of a misogynist than previously and his hate will lead to numerous victims as he seeks to rid the world of malodorous men, women, and children. This is not your average horror or serial killer story. For the author depicts this psychotic individual with such neutrality and writes in such a literate style that the reader is compelled to keep rapidly turning the pages until the last shocking event! The story also gives a nice historical touch to the story, depicting the poverty, wealth, degradation and depravity of the times in a France that may be post-Revolution but is none the better for the overwhelming changes. One word only perfectly describes this novel - amazing!
EvaPohler More than 1 year ago
Only two people in my book club loved this book, and I was one of them. The others were grossed out by the details of disgusting smells and horrid deeds, but I found the powers of description this author possesses to be absolutely astounding. Many books have made me see and hear and taste and feel unusual things, but this novel makes you smell in a brilliantly artistic way. I've never read a book like this one and consider it a masterpiece as a study of the sense of smell in literature. I highly recommend this book. To read more of my book reviews, please visit my blog at bookclubpicks dot blogspot dot com.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Perfume by Patrick Süskind; Translated from the German by John E. Woods When I saw the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) last week, I knew had to read the book. And I was greatly rewarded. Although the movie follows the book quite closely, the thought process of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille can only be grasped by reading the book. At the Cemetière des Innocents market, on July 17, 1738, one of the hottest days of the year in Paris, a fish vendor squatted and delivered her fifth baby. All prior one shad been stillbirths, so after she cut the cord, she abandoned her baby and continued working on her fish stall. However, this time the baby hung to life and cried. There was a turmoil and the baby was given to a nurse and the mother was decapitated weeks later at the place de Grève as prescribed by law. A few weeks later the wet nurse, Jeanne Busie, stood at the gates of the cloister of Saint Merri, and forced Father Terrier to take the baby away because the baby was sucking her life away and "did not smell" like a human being. Father Terrier in turn, took the baby to Madame Guillard's orphanage, where against all odds it survived: "everyday language soon would prove inadequate for designating all the olfactory notions that (Jean-Baptiste) he had accumulated within himself." Soon..."he created odors that did not exist in the real world. It was as if he were an autodidact possessed of a huge vocabulary of odors that enabled him to form at will great number of smelled sentences-" Madame Guillard's sold Jean-Baptiste to a tanner named Grimal for 15 francs. For her cares Madame Guillard lived to an old age and ended poor and alone because the French Revolution ended her pension and she died, like her father, at Hôtel-Dieu. Grenouille knew (by his smell) that Grimal was capable of trashing him to death for the least infraction and he worked like an animal for one year. He survived and excelled at his new job, but one night, he discovered the one scent that was the higher principle, the pattern by which the others must be ordered. It was pure beauty. Never before in his life had Jean-Baptiste known what happiness was. There at rue de Marais, Jean-Baptiste kills the beautiful girl that produced the essence that captivated him-and he decided that he must become the greatest perfumer of all time. Now enters Giuseppe Baldini, a perfumer on the Pont-au-Change, which connected the right bank with the Ile de la Cité. Baldini had aged and had lost his ability to create perfumes. Destiny brings him Jean-Baptiste Grenouille to his door and as the boy is exalted by all the aromas of the shop, Grenouille asks for employment. To prove himself, he copies a perfume created by his competitor-Amor and Psyche-and improves him to the point where Baldini buys Grenouille for twenty livres of gold, a huge sum. On his way home from celebrating the deal of his life, Grimal falls into the Seine River and drowns. The House of Baldini becomes an overnight success, and Grenouille learns all he can from Baldini, and at the same time learns how to write the formulas of the perfumes created, which Baldini guarded with his life. Soon Grenouille learns that only substances with essential oils can be distilled and learns that in the town of Grasse, there are three other ways to make perfume: enfleurage à chaud, enfleurage à froid, and enfleurage à l'huile. Grenouille trades his fr
Sifl More than 1 year ago
This book is a work of genius. I was so surprised that it was originally written in German because the text seems to flow so perfectly in English. The author's style and use of diction create highly descriptive scenes that pull the reader in and never let go. I found the main character, Grenouille, although a mass-murderer, somehow likable. The story is multi-faceted and full of metaphors that will keep you thinking long after you've finished the novel. This is a must-read!
Lii More than 1 year ago
The story takes place in 18th century France, where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born lacking any personal odour at all. After a difficult childhood where nobody really wanted him, he was finally traded to a perfumer, where he learned to refine his incredible gift of smell. One day while walking the streets of Paris he discovers the scent of a beautiful young girl; it was unlike anything he had ever smelled before. He became so obsessed with the smell and the idea of creating the perfect perfume, one that no one could resist. After that day Jean-Baptiste embarks on a series of horrifying murders. "Perfume" is one of my favorite books. The scents are so detailed and vividly described I could almost smell them myself. The language in this novel is so rich and enjoyable that even if the story was less appealing it would still make a great book, one that you have to read.
leimana More than 1 year ago
This book is intense. I saw the movie before I read the book. The book is so much better. Very good read.
neurodrew More than 1 year ago
Jean Babtiste Grenouille has no scent of his own, but has an incomparable sense of smell. He is able to detect and catalogue all scents, picking them out from a crowd. He is a castoff, born and thrown out, raised by people who seek only to profit from him. He works in a tannery, contracts and survives anthrax. He presents himself with a delivery of hides to a perfumer and glover, and demonstrates his uncanny ability to compound scents from his memory. He leaves Paris after learning the perfumer¿s techniques, lives a long time in the wild, hiding in a cave far from all scents, then returns to society, first being an example for a crackpot theory of disease, and then ending up in Grasse, to learn new techniques of extracting scents. He compounds scents to use himself, with different overtones to create different effects on people. He is drawn to the scent of a virgin, resolves to extract her scent and create a perfume that would make the world fall in love with its wearer. He becomes a murderer, and escapes the execution with the use of the scent. Luscious writing, vivid detail about perfumes and the historical period, unusual main characte
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up at a garage sale - never been read. Oh Boy!! What a book. I have never read anything like it. It is not a copy cat of anything else I have ever read. I love reading truly original and unique story lines, complete with fully developed (if not a bit bizarre) characters, and really complex psycological undertones. I give this book a 10 - I am keeping it forever. Have ready it twice and find it fabulous.
joes on LibraryThing 29 days ago
A well paced thriller with a difference focussing on all things olafactory as it does. The style was a little pretentious at times I found but the climax was worth it.
bardsfingertips on LibraryThing 29 days ago
This was a very quick and easy read for me. The story was exceptionally linear, single-minded, and without any self-indulged meandering. It has lush and lovely descriptions of the character's demigod-like nose and its perception of the world that were a joy to read and immerse myself in. All-in-all, the thing it really made me think of the most was, "Hmm, this reads like when Anne Rice was actually good."
trav on LibraryThing 29 days ago
I picked up this book after it was credited with "most memorable" character in a recent Books on the Nightstand podcast.The story is built around a poor child born in Europe when princes still rode around their fiefdoms on horses and chamber pots were common.What makes this child unique is that he has no scent. No odor. A fact which seems to be tied directly to his sense of humanity, his lack of ethics and his ability to dissect a scent into its various components.It's this last skill that he learns to apply for himself and get out of the gutters. He begins making perfumes. Perfumes that no one else can. Some of these parts of the book get a little old, as we revels in his ability to collect "the essence" of certain plants and animals to add to his perfumes.The story really picks up towards the end as he seeks the ultimate human scent. How does he make this... lets just say there are lots of murders and lots of "essence purifying" going on. Up until its very fast and very fairy tale ending.I give this story 3 out of 5 stars.
icolford on LibraryThing 3 months ago
The story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is one to literally stimulate the senses, the sense of smell in particular. Suskind¿s story of a man who is born with a preternaturally heightened olfactory sense, and yet no personal body odor, is part murder mystery, part historical tall tale. Grenouille is born in 1738 in Paris, outdoors at a fishmonger¿s stall, to a mother who leaves him to die. But with his squalling the baby demands the attention of passers-by, and by these means is rescued and embarks upon a life that has but one objective: to create the perfect perfume. Each of Grenouille¿s adventures brings him closer to his goal, which he pursues with robotic single-mindedness. Nothing stops him, not even the need to take innocent human lives. This is both his triumph and his undoing. Perfume is not a book for the faint of heart. Suskind¿s 18th-century world is filled with disgusting smells, and he revels in the descriptions. If the book has a flaw it is in the character of Grenouille, who never at any point of the story elicits the sympathy of the reader. It must be said however that this is not Suskind¿s intention. He seems to want the reader to regard Grenouille with the same cool fascination with which Grenouille regards the world, which for him is a storehouse of ingredients he will use to create his masterpiece. But since it lacks an emotional core the book seems cold, in the manner of a scientific treatise, which may astound and inform, but does not engage the reader at that deeper visceral level. Still, Perfume makes for a fascinating and memorable read, one that lingers in the mind the way an unpleasant odor lingers in the air.
MissTree on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I enjoyed this book a lot.
ravemaster on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Great book recommended by my aunt who loves book. The story is about a boy who was born without smell but ironically has a very strong sense of smell. He is able to create wonderful perfumes from anything. Yet, he will not be satisfied until he collects all the essential smells that will create the ultimate perfume. I like the writing style of the author (or maybe it's the translator's writing style?) because the story is written is such a simplistic way, almost childish. No fancy and twisty way of writing, making it a simple read, unlike some books I have read that takes a lot of thinking and flicking back to previous chapters to get my head round the plot. It's all in the plot, not the flair. The way the book is written is such that there is no emotion, like a robot narrating. Yet, you can't help but be drawn in to the story. I love this book, and the movie. Definitely recommend it.
mazda502001 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I tried really hard to read this and got about halfway through and just couldn't carry on. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book and was quite getting into it and then it just wasn't holding my attention any more. I think that started when Grenouille left Paris and lived in the mountain - that's when the book lost me.Back Cover Blurb:Grenouille has 'the finest nose in Paris and no personal odour'. He uses this talent to become a master perfumier and a sadistic murderer, disgusted by the stench of the human race.
cscovil on LibraryThing 3 months ago
PATRICK SUSKIND: PerfumeListened on audio 2008 Original, inspired, literary, compelling.Magic realism is something I tend to avoid since I bought the Lollipop shoes by Joanne Harris and abandoned it after a few chapters feeling cheated that I had been persuaded to a buy a book of complete and utter twaddle. Of course, all fiction is made up but it has to be believable to make it work. Or does it? Perfume is not believable but it definitely worked for me. It is elemental, in the same way that Wuthering Heights is elemental. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is primitive and culpable, character traits that bring authenticity to the otherwise wholly magic and perverse art of his perfumery. Grenouille was born in 1738 in the most putrid spot in France - a Paris fish market. He is described by the author as ¿an abomination¿ he has no personal odour and because of this people don't seem to like him, though they can't say why. Grenouille is special however, he has one of the finest 'noses' in Paris, able to distinguish and isolate odours like no other. His talent is turned to profit in the perfume business and he makes a fortune. But it is not perfume that Grenouille wants to create but his own scent, which will make him irresistible. To do this he must extract the odour of a woman, while still a virgin: a process which unfortunately involves slaying the donor.It is an epic novel with a sizeable cast and a plot that rambles with Grenouille all over France through the many years of his life including a spell of hermitage in a cave. It does wane a little in the middle but, in the final analysis, Perfume whisks you into the vile, crazy world of eighteenth-century France and the mind of a truly heartless murderer.Suskind draws Grenouille as such a disagreeable protagonist that it is very hard for the reader to have any sympathy for such a vile monster. However, the real enjoyment of the book is the delusional, selfish, naïve, cruel, corrupt and ¿ above all ¿ ignorant ¿ cast of characters that roam the back streets of the plot. If anything, these minor characters sparkle more than Grenouille and leave him rather dull and soulless in comparison, which may have been the Suskind¿s intention. Comic and pantomime it may be and yet there is a sobering message that all the fortune in the world is meaningless without companionship and acceptance.You get the impression that Suskind was out to produce a great work of literature and has been successful, although the book is not without flaws, it would have benefitted from more editing and the final scene in particular verges on the farcical.1985 literary historical cross-genre novel (originally published in German as Das Parfum)Patrick Süskind (born March 26, 1949) is a German writer and screenwriter who lives a reclusive life in Munich.
KLmesoftly on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Part of me is saddened by the fact that I'd seen the movie before I read this book, as the film is a very faithful adaptation, but on the other hand, I'm not sure I could've handled the suspense if I'd read this unaware of the ending. The prose is eerily detached, much like the protagonist, though it enhances the slow build to the novel's climax, rather than lessening my interest in the story. Grenouille is by no means one of the "friendly" serial killers that populate many recent works--Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series, for example--but I wouldn't have him any other way.
titania86 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
In 18th century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has not had a good life. His mother tried to kill him as an infant. He was passed around as a baby because of his odd lack of scent and his greediness. He ends up at an indifferent woman's house with many other children. She sells him to a tanner as an unskilled laborer and this is where his life truly begins. Grenouille is indifferent at best towards humanity. His only true enjoyment and love is in his overwhelmingly sensitive sense of smell, which is more of a burden at the time since everything stank badly. He goes around Paris collecting these scents, even killing a young girl for her exquisite scent. Eventually gaining employ at a perfumer's shop after demonstrating his wonderful ability, Grenouille learns how to make his own scents and capture scents from different things. As he travels around the world, leaving a trail of death in his wake, Grenouille's need for olfactory fulfillment prompts him to delve deeper and deeper into his depravity. How far will he go to bottle the most exquisite of scents?Perfume had been on my list of books to read for a long time. I decided to finally read it because Dan Wells listed it as one of his favorite books at a book signing I recently attended. He reminded me why I was interested in it in the first place: serial killer, period piece, sociopathic antihero. The story was so weird and interesting. I can't think of any other book in which smells are described in such detail or play such an important role. Suskind had a wonderful way with words that really drew me into his world. There were a couple moments in the beginning where more elaborate words were used in an awkward way, but I think that would be more of a translator error. Other than that, the language was excellent and painted a vivid picture of 18th century France in all its horrible, disgusting glory. The heavenly and vile smells were both described masterfully well and Grenouille went around collecting and labeling them as if they were physical objects.Grenouille was an interesting character. On the exterior, he was pretty nondescript, bordering on ugly. He didn't start out as very handsome and became increasingly malformed as each misfortune presented itself and left its mark on him. Inside, he viewed himself as the highest being. He valued no other person at all and didn't experience love or affection for anyone or anything except scents. His sense of smell was his greatest gift and he mastered everything he could about extracting scents from things and trapping them in oils and perfumes. The detail of these processes were detailed and showed a lot of research about 18th century perfume techniques. Although Grenouille isn't a likeable or relatable character, I still was on his side throughout the novel. Almost everyone who interacted with him either used him for their own gain or were simply pretty horrible people. It was almost comical that these people always met with misfortune and death after Grenouille left them. We also see these people through Grenouille's eyes for the most part, so we simply see how they can be used and discarded for his greater goal: successfully trapping scents. Suskind's writing made it easy to to be on Grenouille's side despite his sociopathic ways.Perfume was a wonderful and unique novel that mixes fantasy and 18th century France. The shocking ending proved to be horrific and beautiful at the same time. I would love to read other books by Suskind, particularly The Pigeon, a followup novel to Perfume. I highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction who aren't afraid of a twisted story.
Ruby_Barnes on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Started as perfume, ended as eau de toilette.This famous book could have been a 5 star. It started as a quite gothic tale and introduced an olfactory world that had me suddenly sensing my day to day surroundings. The characterisations were exact and the plot moved rapidly until the point where Grenouille left his perfumier master. Then it degenerated to an introverted tale of a hermit. After the hermit hiatus it recovered and the Grasse methods of scent extraction enlivened the plot. Grenouille's ultimate victim was profiled but then he went on a rampage of two dozen murders with barely a mention, taking the twenty-fifth and final life without any real prelude. Perhaps it was intentional to gloss over the loss of life as an indication of how little it meant to Grenouille but there could have been real story in that section of the plot. The mass hysteria at his execution and pardon is fascinating but stretches believability and the final scene in the Paris graveyard goes too far. There is little coverage of Grenouille's despair as he realises that everything he did was in vain and ultimately unsatisfying to both him and the reader.
perlle on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Not like anything else I've read. Felt like a modern day Grimm's fairy tale told from the perspective of the villain.