Off the scent

25 05 2019

Perfume by Patrick Süskind


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 name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name 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, 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 . . .

It’s an excellent premise for a grim tale as the merciless Grenouille, abandoned as a child, discovers he has an extraordinary talent, his amazing sense of smell. In making the most remarkable perfumes he nevertheless has to go further to achieve perfection. Which is where the trouble really starts. Smart and sharp but really very gruesome indeed.

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