‘Perfume’ by Patrick Süskind (1986)

I have been receiving suggestions to read Perfume for about ten years now, I reckon. Recently it was published as a Penguin Red Classic and I grabbed a cheap copy to add to my huge list of books to read. I actually managed to fit it in on a flight between Brisbane and Cairns a few weeks ago on my way to the ICSV14 conference. That’s right. It was so damned good I devoured the whole thing in one go. To be fair, I read most of it on the flight and then finished it off when I got to the hostel. As far as I can remember, it’s the longest book (296 pages paperback) I’ve read in one sitting.

I loved this book. And for totally different reasons than I often love books. It didn’t contain any characters that I found particularly likeable nor whom I could even empathise with. And the actions of the characters were never noble nor life-affirming. This isn’t one of those books like ‘Peter Camenzind’ (Hermann Hesse, 1904; my thoughts forthcoming when I re-read it one day) where the life of an everyman unfolds before your eyes and connects you with humanity as their character advances spiritually through life. For example. Despite all of this, there is an uplifting catharsis that arises quite unexpectedly (to me), which is quite unique for the genre that — on the surface — this book appears to fall into.

But the world that Süskind creates is simply amazing, and the construction of the narrative is simple and clever. There are no loose ends and no logical gaps in the story. In short, a ‘perfect’ novel. And while I wish I was the kind of person who could untangle the themes within an elucidate them now, I must be content to bask in them. I guess that’s why I’m trying to write here, so that I learn to express my own reactions to things.

I was talking with Toni the other day about the movie that has recently been made on this book. I haven’t heard a single good reaction about the movie, and I’m fascinated by the fact that the movie was even made. The book spends much of its time in a world that can’t really be shown on film, and so while the superficial ‘action’ of the story could obviously be shown, I’m baffled by how the motivation of essentially the only character could be portrayed. Or how someone could even try and approach the problem. So I would really like to see how the book was adapted.

Now, I just spent a couple of minutes reading the reviews at IMDB and the reactions there seem rather good. So that gives me more motivation to actually check it out. Because I do love movies, after all. Stay tuned.