Saturday, August 04, 2007

Perfume

I read this thing through to the end, even though I was disgusted at one point by a certain act of cruelty to animals that made me say, "This book is sick," and throw it across the room. The opening chapter is funny and intriguing, but it's really downhill from there as the infant with no smell, who really may also be without a soul, grows up into a murderer and expert perfumer. He is gifted with an astounding sense of smell, which ultimately leads to his greatest triumph and his undoing. The novel is subtitled "The Story of a Murderer," so readers should not be surprised at the violence in the novel. Still, the artistic conceit of a person with a gifted nose but no human scent doesn't really justify the level of violence in the novel. Toward the end, this fictional conceit overwhelms all sense of decency and the novel really does reach the level of horror, in the old-fashioned sense of the term. Patrick Suskind has done his research on perfuming, and it shows throughout the novel, but the premise on which he has built his fictional world is askew, and I don't think it can hold the weight that Suskind puts on top of it.
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