I just finished reading the above novel. I hadn't heard of it before and it was given to me by a pal to read. I had been telling this pal about my theory of the past being full of bad odours (which was also subject of my blog on 2nd May - "Smell....the sense of the past"). He reckoned I should read this novel "Perfume", and gave me the book (thanks G!).
Patrick Suskind is a German author and the book was originally published in the German language as Das Perfum in 1985. I was a bit nervous that the translation into English might dull the quality of writing. However it still proved to be a colourful and interesting read.
It's a most unusual story. Set in France (mainly in Paris) during the mid 18th century it covers the birth, childhood and adult life of a fictional bizarre man called Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Grenouille was born with an incredible sense of smell (and memory of smells) and also he himself has absolutely no body odour. As he grows up his driven passion of the pursuit of perfection in analysis and derivation of pleasure from odours develops him into a murderer. He also demonstrates phenomenal skills as an expert in the art of perfumery.
The beginning few pages of the book includes an amazing description of the stench of Paris in the mid 1700s. It made me smile as it confirmed even more strongly than I had thought how bad odours were a big feature in the daily routine of life in the distant past.
As I say it's an unusual book and makes you think a bit differently in lots of ways. It's not a bad yarn but of course includes plenty of fantasy. It also covers life in 18th century France quite well. I notice the book has received many good reviews and in fact it's just about to be released as a movie with Dustin Hoffman starring. It also is the featured book this month in Ryan Tubridy's book review club in his RTE morning radio programme.
"Perfume" is unlikely to hit the heights as a major work of literature but it is a different and interesting read. It really makes you think more on the sense of smell.