Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Scent & Desire's Entanglements

By Patrick Suskind
Translated By John E. Woods
German, 1985
Horror, Mystery, Magical Realism, Absurdism

Main Attractions

1. Powerfully Descriptive Language   
2. Creepily Compelling Storyline
3. Memorable Main Character
4. Major Plot Twists & Events
5. Detailed Perfume Alchemy
6. Grisly Moments & Images
7. Filled with Villains
8. Evil Atmospheric Novel 
9. Eery, Tragic Consequences 
10. That ending though?!

Cuisine & Delicacies

Ranked as: Ghost Pepper BBQ Ribs
Immediately, this book heaps the reader one 1 of 2 piles.  Either the imagery draws you into the rotting food stalls at a back alley market or it straight up repulses you with the grotesque descriptions.  Like a Terry Gilliam film, I don’t think there’s headspace for being completely unaffected by this book.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not attracted to the scent of rotting fish and clearly it repulses me.  Yet, this story is crafted in such an artistic way.  

The main character isn’t a complete being, he is very dehumanized in so many of the descriptions and choices he makes.  For his human inadequacies, he’s blessed with an uncanny and sublime gift of noticing scent.  While there are many descriptions of unruly fragrances, there’s also intriguing characterization  and plot happening.  

Suskind fully showcases the realm of scent far beyond what we notice in the entire course of our lives into a mere, very short novel.  This twist of odours with fragrances into artistic descriptions makes this novel cringeworthy.

Why Visit Here

The artistry in Suskind’s descriptions is so incredibly powerful.  He weaves in the overlooked details of life and the details of some historically accurate methods with completely unexpected and surprising events.  All of this makes the novel tip in favour of being an artist view of the human condition rather than a mere story about repulsive odours and the perfumer who experiences them.

Destination Summary

In short, this novel is about an unwanted orphan with a phenomenal sense of smell.  His gift actually leads him through life and keeps him alive until he becomes a perfumer.  That’s when he takes command of his gift and the climactic conclusion happens.

Off the Beaten Path

Top 5 Perfume Facts You Never Knew By MsMojo a 6 Min. video

Travel Advisory

The violence in this book isn’t gratuitous or stomach turning which is a surprise.  I was expecting a gory, nasty book and it wasn’t at all.  The horror of this book truly lies in the descriptions of pungent orders of decay that’s all around us, hidden from every day life.  These descriptions are unsettling and clearly remind us why we don’t like flies in our home.

Packing List

✓ Your favourite bottle of perfume
✓ Overly burned candles with waxy buildups
✓ Images of a 17th  or 18th Century Town

Recommended Resources
Alternate Books
The Hunchback of Notre Dame By Victor Hugo (1831) - The treatment of the main characters  from both books would be interesting to compare and the descriptions of both books are outstanding but for wildly different reasons.

Movie Adaptations
✓ Perfume: The Story of a Murderer  (2006) Directed by Tom Tykwer - It’s the film adaptation which follows the book closely with some alterations to suit the screen.  The book is more detailed and the movie has great cinematography.