Summary and book reviews of Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Perfume

The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Suskind

Perfume
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1987, 361 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2001, 272 pages

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Book Summary

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with an absolute sense of smell. He apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille becomes obsessed with creating the "ultimate perfume" - the scent of a beautiful young virgin.

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind's classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man's indulgence in his greatest passion - his sense of smell - leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift - an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume"-the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brillance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.

1

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His story will be told here. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name-in contrast to the names of other gifted abominations, de Sade's, for instance, or Saint-Just's, Fouch?'s, Bonaparte's, etc.-has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, to wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent.

In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS GUIDE

The introduction, discussion questions, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Patrick Süskind's Perfume. We hope they will provide you with a variety of approaches to this vividly imagined historical novel. Set in eighteenth-century France, Perfume explores the evolution of a remorseless killer during an era of intense contradictions, an age in which poverty, filth, and superstition coexisted uneasily with the Enlightenment's ideals of progress, liberty, and reason.

ABOUT THIS BOOK

The novel's protagonist, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, begins and ends his life at the Cimetière des Innocents. But in the meantime, a most unusual—and ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The San Francisco Chronicle

An astonishing performance, a masterwork of artistic conception and execution. A totally gripping page-turner.

Library Journal

With brilliant narrative skill Susskind exposes the dark underside of the society through which Grenouille moves and explores the disquieting inner universe of this singularly possessed man.

Reader Reviews

Karim Fanous

Olfactory sensation, it's a sweet damnation!
Olfactory sensation, it's a sweet damnation! This book is simply brilliant. Never before have I been grasped so intensely by a book. Especially considering how bizarre and twisted the story and concept are. I have a terrible sense of smell and to ...   Read More

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