The yearis 1738; the place, Paris. A babyis born under a fish-monger’s bloody table in a marketplace, and abandoned. Orphaned, passed over tothe monksas a charity case, already there is something in the aura of the tiny infant that is unsettling. No one will look after him; he is somehow too demanding, and, even more disturbing, something is missing: as his wet nurse triesto explain,he doesn’t smell the way a baby should smell; indeed, hehas no scent at all. Slowly, as we watch Jean-Baptiste Grenouille cling stubbornly to life, we begin to realize thata monster is growing before our eyes. With mounting unease, yet hypnotized, we see him explore his powers and their effect on the world around him. For this dark and sinister boy who has no smell himself possesses an absolutesense of smell, and with it he can read the world to discover the hidden truths that elude ordinary men. He cansmell the very composition of objects, and their history, and where they have been,he has no need of the light, and darknessis not dark to him, because nothing can maskthe odors of the universe. As he leaves childhood behind and comes to understand his terrible uniqueness, his obsession becomes the quest to identify, and then to isolate, themost perfect scent of all, the scent of life itself. At first, he hones his powers, learning the ancient arts of perfume-making until the exquisitefragrances he creates are the rage of Paris, and indeed Europe. Then, securein his mastery of these means to an end, he withdraws into a strange and agonized solitude, waiting, dreaming, until the morning when he wakes, ready to embark on his monstrous quest: to find and extract from the most perfect living creatures—the most beautiful young virgins in the land— that ultimate perfume which alone can make him, too, fully human. As his trail leads him, at an ever-quickening pace, from his savage exile to the heart of the country and then back to Paris, we are caught up in a rising storm of terror and mortal sensual conquest until the frenzy of his final triumph explodes inall its horrifying consequences. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance andthe haunting power of a grown-up fairy tale, Perfumeis one ofthe most remarkable novelsof the last fifty years.
Shelfari edited the description of Perfume Wednesday, December 9, 2009.
Shelfari edited the description of Perfume Friday, July 31, 2009.