Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets of Paris as a child, but grows up to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human's. Soon, he is creating the most sublime fragrances in all... read more
Grenouille (French for "frog") is an unwanted Parisian orphan who, having little personal scent, is rejected by others because they are disturbed by his lack of odor. He has an extraordinary power to discern odours, and comes to loathe the scent of other people. He becomes apprenticed to a... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
Grenouille (French for "frog") is an unwanted Parisian orphan who, having little personal scent, is rejected by others because they are disturbed by his lack of odor. He has an extraordinary power to discern odours, and comes to loathe the scent of other people. He becomes apprenticed to a tanner at the age of eight, and after work explores the city. One day he smells a divine scent and follows it, and is shocked to find that the source of this beautiful scent is a young woman. He kills her to get a better smell of her scent, but after death the scent ceases. He dedicates his life to preserve this perfect scent.
In his quest to isolate and preserve scents, he becomes apprenticed to a great perfumier, Baldini, and proves a talented pupil, making Baldini the most popular perfumier in Paris. But Baldini cannot teach him how to isolate the scent of glass and iron. He falls ill with small pox but, on discovering that techniques other than distillation can be used to preserve such odours, he miraculously recovers and resolves to journey to the city of Grasse to further his quest.
On his way to Grasse, Grenouille becomes so disgusted by the scent of humanity that he spends seven years in a cave on top of the Massif Central. One day he wakes with a start from a nightmare of being suffocated by his own body odour, and realises with a shock that he has no personal scent at all.
Grenouille journeys to Montpelier where an amateur scientist, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, uses Grenouille to test his thesis of the "so-called fluidium letale". The Marquis combines a treatment of decontamination and revitalization for Grenouille, and subsequently, Grenouille looks like a clean gentleman for the first time in his life. Grenouille in turn tricks his way into the laboratory of a famous perfumier. There he creates a body odour for himself from ingredients including "cat shit," "cheese," and "vinegar", whereupon he is accepted by society.
Moving to Grasse, Grenouille once again becomes intoxicated by the scent of a young woman, Laure. He decides that she is not quite mature and resolves to kill her in two years time. Meanwhile he embarks on a career of serial murder of beautiful virgins to form a base for the scent he will make from Laure, while at the same time refining his powers until he can preserve any smell.
Eventually Laure's father pieces together the pattern of murders and realises that Laure is to be the next victim. He flees with Laure but Grenouille pursues them and kills Laure, capturing her scent.
He is eventually apprehended and sentenced to death, but on the day of his execution the intoxicating scent of Laure combined with the backdrop essences of the twenty-four virgins he murdered, overwhelms all present, and instead of an execution the whole town becomes a massive orgy.
Grenouille is pardoned for his crimes, and Laure's father even wants to adopt him. But the experience of the power has dissatisfied Grenouille, because he is not loved for himself, but for the perfume which he created. He realises that he had always found gratification 'in hatred, in hating and being hated', not love. He decides to return to Paris upon finding that the satisfaction that he initially felt has transformed itself into hatred and disgust.
In Paris, Grenouille approaches a group of low-life people (thieves, murderers, whores, etc), who do not notice him approaching. He deliberately douses himself with the perfume he created, while among the group. Overcome with desire, they tear him to pieces and devour the remains. They feel slightly disgusted having just eaten a human being, but they feel overwhelmed with happiness. They are "uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love." - "Love" is deliberately capitalized which is open to interpretation.
“What he had always longed for - that other people should love him - became at the moment of its achievement unbearable, because he did not love them himself, he hated them. And suddenly he knew that he had never found gratification in love, but always only in hatred - in hating and being hated.”
“He could do all that, <rule the world> if only he wanted to. He possessed the power. He held it in his hand. A power stronger than the power of money or the power of terror or the power of death: the invincible power to command the love of mankind. There was only one thing that power could not do: it could not make him able to smell himself. And though his perfume might allow him to appear before the world as a god - if he could not smell himself and thus never know who he was, to hell with it, with the world, with himself, with his perfume.”
“No one knows how good this perfume really is, he thought. No one knows how well made it is. Other people are merely conquered by its effect, don’t even know that it’s a perfume that’s working on them, enslaving them. The only one who has ever recognized it for its true beauty is me, because I created it myself. And at the same time, I’m the only one that it cannot enslave. I am the only person for whom it is meaningless.”
“Looked at objectively, however, there was nothing at all about him to instill terror. As he grew older, he was not especially big, nor strong-----ugly, true but not so extremely ugly that people would necessarily have taken fright at him. He was not aggressive, nor underhanded, nor furtive, he did not provoke people. he preferred to keep out of their way.”
“And so it happened quite naturally and as the result of no particular decision that his plan to take the fastest road to Grasse gradually faded; the plan unravelled in freedom, so to speak, as did all his other plans and intentions. Grenouille no longer wanted to go somewhere, but only to go away, away from human beings.”
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
“This scent had a freshness, but not the freshness of limes or pomegranates, not the freshness of myrrh or cinnamon bark or curly mint or birch or camphor or pine needles, nor that of a May rain or a frosty wind or of well water...and at the same time it had warmth, but not as bergamot, cypress, or musk has, or jasmine or daffodils, not as rosewood has or iris...This scent was a blend of both, of evanescence and substance, not a blend, but a unity, although slight and frail as well, and yet solid and sustaining, like a piece of thin, shimmering silk...and yet again not like silk, but like pastry soaked in honey -sweet milk - and try as he would he couldn't fit those two together: milk and silk! This sent was inconceivable, indescribable, could not be categorized in any way - it really ought not to exist at all. And yet there it was as plain and splendid as day.”
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