“Perfumer” is a German parable by Patrick Süskind, which appeared in 1985. The novel gained real popularity in the 2000s. In 2006, a film adaptation was released with Alan Rickman and Ben Whishaw. The original title of the book is Das Parfum. Die Geschichte eines Morders. The author explores a man of genius, whose gift was limited to a sphere that left no traces in history – the world of smells.
What is the Perfume book about?
In the middle of the 18th century, in the stinkiest place in stinking Paris, a baby was born. The mother decided to leave him in a pile of rotten fish for certain death, but was caught and executed for infanticide. But the child survived. But the place of birth left an imprint on him. The boy was named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and given to the nurse, who quickly abandoned him – the child disgusted her. After he lived in a monastery, where he is also not accepted and is considered possessed by the devil. The poor boy was also shunned in the orphanage: here he was considered ugly and poorly developed. Nevertheless, the boy amazed and frightened: he predicted showers and could walk in the dark, focusing only on the smell. Once Jean-Baptiste managed to find the money of the owners of the shelter by smell, after which he was given to laborers.
It was very difficult for the boy here, but he already realized that he lives in a world of smells. The hero actively studied them, he was interested in the stink of garbage dumps, and perfumes, and pastries.
One day he encounters a woman who smells of beauty alone. The hero decided to take possession of her scent. He strangled the girl, but did not feel any remorse. You can even say that Grenouille was happy: he became the owner of the most precious scent in the world.
After that, the guy realized that he wanted to become an outstanding perfumer.
He went to study the rare art with the master Baldini, who was struck by the fact that he was able to create outstanding perfumes without knowledge of the laws of perfumery. While studying with the maestro, he mastered the language of formulas and learned how to take away the aromas from flowers using distillation. The young man is disappointed: it turns out that not every fragrance can be enclosed in a bottle. After that, the young man fell seriously ill. He came to his senses only after he learned that there are many other ways to get fragrance from different bodies. Grenouille received an apprentice’s patent and handed over to the teacher all the perfume formulas he had created, and he also restored the teacher’s old masterpiece. Baldini soon died.
Jean-Baptiste lives in a cave for a long time. There, Grenouille understands how he differs from other people: his body has no smell. He sets himself the goal of creating a fragrance for himself, thanks to which people would take him for an ordinary person.
After that, Grenouille becomes a student of the Marquis, who believes in the fluid theory. Grenouille creates unique perfumes from cheese and cat feces.
After some time, Jean-Baptiste ends up in Grasse, where he becomes an apprentice to the widow of a famous perfumer. It is in this city that he encounters the fragrance of the young Laura Rishi. This scent is even more perfect than the scent of the woman he once strangled. Grenouille understands that it is Laura who will help him create a fragrance of absolute beauty that inspires all who inspire a feeling of true love. But in order to get this fragrance, you need to kill its owner … He begins a series of deadly experiments, the victims of which are young girls from Grasse …
For several months the city lives in horror: twenty young women are found murdered. There are no signs of sexual violence, but all the victims have their hair cut… It’s just that a genius gets fragrances from the hair and skin of their owners… The hunt for a maniac begins. Everyone is under suspicion except for a strange tramp …
Consul Antoine Rishi realizes that his daughter Laura may be the victim of a mysterious killer. He takes the girl away from the city and hides her on an abandoned island. Grenouille finds the beauty by smell and turns it into a perfume with a proven method. He achieved his goal. Antoine Rishi does everything to catch the maniac. Jean-Baptiste is sentenced to be broken on the wheel. Before his execution, he uses a drop of his perfect spirits. The executioner gives up, Rishi recognizes his son as the killer, and everyone who gathered to stare at the execution takes part in an orgy. Another person was executed.
Grenouille leaves Grasse, but realizes that his talent has never been recognized. The young man returns to Paris and finds the place where he was born. Jean-Baptiste douses his perfume, using the entire bottle. So he becomes a victim of hungry vagabonds …
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is a 100% anti-hero. It is impossible to identify a single positive feature in it. Yes, the young man is smart and reasonable, but he uses these qualities exclusively to implement his idea, which is understandable only to him alone. This character seemed to be created in order to cause fear and disgust in society: his constant habit of sniffing repelled those around him from the first days of his life. Subsequently, it turned out that distrust of Grenouille was caused by another factor: he did not smell of anything. At all. And the smell of a person, which few will even pay attention to, plays a very significant role in the perception of a person.
Grenouille’s sense of smell seems exaggerated. He is able to “immediately” determine the smell of a perfume, the recipe of which was kept in the strictest confidence, and, without measuring the substance, prepare an absolutely similar eau de toilette. By the smell of a person, he can tell everything about him.
Grenouille is a sociopath. He is incapable of experiencing any warm feelings towards others. Without hesitation, he killed more than twenty young and beautiful girls with only one goal – to collect from the components for his spirits.
But is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille alone to blame for everything?
Why did the young man grow up so inhuman
From the first minutes of his life, no one needed Grenouille. The mother intended, having given birth to a boy, to immediately get rid of him, as she did with her other children. In the house where he grew up, the children were left to their own devices, they grew up without love and care. At all places of work, the young man was valued for his amazing olfactory abilities, without demonstrating a humane attitude towards him. Nowhere in his entire life did Grenouille meet love and support.
Perhaps, having never known a benevolent attitude towards himself, Grenouille himself did not learn to feel affection, pity, compassion for anyone. He has not formed a sense of the value of human life, while committing murders, he thinks of only one thing: not to be caught red-handed.
The final scene seems to shed some light on Grenouille’s motives. He doused himself with the created spirits (the extraordinary power of which the reader understood from the scene in which the young man escaped execution) and went to the streets of the city. Maddened, the townspeople tore Grenouille to pieces, wanting to get at least a piece of a person who is so alluring for reasons inexplicable to them. Probably all Grenouille wanted was to get the love and recognition of people, albeit at the cost of his life.
Human character traits are laid in early childhood. The whole life of Jean-Baptiste is an utterly unfortunate set of circumstances that led to such a tragic ending.
The meaning of the book “Perfumer”
“Perfume” is a work of genius and loneliness that haunts those whom God has endowed with this phenomenon. Genius is also a disease, therefore the author conducts a peculiar study of it. Grenouille understands that he is not like everyone else, but he dreams of people accepting him as their own and falling in love. But he does not know how to do it, therefore he uses only his gift. And since the sense of morality is unknown to him, this leads to tragedies and the ridiculous death of the protagonist.
Analysis of the book “Perfumer”
Critics find the protagonist similar to two other characters: Quasimodo and Tiny Tsakhes. He also resembles the latter internally: a lame boy with a face disfigured by ulcers uses his magical gift from a fairy to power over people, and Grenouille uses his talent for creating smells. Both heroes have colossal power and both die completely shamefully: one drowned in a chamber pot, the other was eaten by beggars in the market.
The text of the novel itself can be called postmodern. It cannot be read in one and a certain sense. The ending of the novel is an allusion to the phrase of Christ during the Last Supper, where he compared bread with his body. Suskind uses the principle of pseudo-historicism in the novel, convincing the reader that all this really happened in reality. The novel is full of dates.
The history of the creation of the book “Perfumer”
Suskind began working on the novel as a student. Suskind wrote a lot on the table. So he wrote this novel for himself, therefore he did not even plan to publish it. However, when the author was working on the book, he learned the art of perfumery in a factory and traveled to all the places that appear in the novel.
Problems of the book
Some see in the novel a hidden comparison of the hero with those in power and tyrants. Such people want to achieve political goals and for their sake they are ready to go over their heads and destroy many thousands of people.
The meaning of the title of the book “Perfumer”
The original title of the novel is Aroma. The story of a murder. How different is it from the Russian version? It’s hard to say. The author seems to have focused on the spirits and how they killed its creator.
What does the book teach
The author raised a very painful topic. He believes that if a person was born not like everyone else, he will never become normal.
Explanation of the ending of the book “Perfumer”
At the end of the novel, Grenouille returns to the place where he was born. This is where he wanted to die. The main character simply understood that he would never be the same as everyone else. After midnight, he poured the whole bottle of the ill-fated perfume on himself and waited for visitors to his foul-smelling area. Minutes later, thieves, beggars and prostitutes attacked him and ate his flesh and bones. The author writes that for the first time in their lives these people committed an act dictated by love. Grenouille loved …