More than the Murder in Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume


Perfume came to my radar as another of my sister’s fascinating stories. She watched the 2006 film adaptation of the novel and spilled all the amusing details. In a short while, I’ve learned everything that is to learn about the story.

Then that was that. Until she possessed her own paperback from one of her crazy book-buying in Singapore. “Crazy” because in her total awe for the novels’ cheap prices, she bought a lot and we had to buy a big luggage bag to wheel all the books back in Cebu (she did’t want to risk losing the books if she were to sent it as a package).

Patrick Süskind’s novel is just one of the many unread books on our list. Through breaks in my night shift as a writer, I took it out. On the passenger seat beside the jeepney driver’s seat. Under the semi-dark corner across our office space, amidst the occasional elevator pinging and chitchat. I have managed to gradually read it.

As a huge fan of prose, there’ll be moments where I would place my bookmark and not continue. Not because I’m pressed on time, but because I want to savor the delicious delight Süskind’s prose has to offer. It’s a bit like my The Picture of Dorian Gray experience.

So, what where my personal takeaways for this novel?

  • Faith in self. Some people (especially young adults) lament not being able to find their purpose (yet). And while it is important to find one’s purpose, it is worth noting that such impatience may also show one’s lack of faith to oneself. Grenouille was different: he seems to supply himself a sustained amount of faith in his own talent.

“He had found the compass for his future life. And like all gifted abominations, for whom some external event make straight the way down into the chaotic vortex of their souls, Grenouille never again departed from what he believed was the direction fate had pointed him… He must become a creator of scents.” (46, Perfume)

  • Vision of who he will become. Like us, Grenouille sought to find what is it that he is really good at. And how it will mark his place in the world. It sounds cliché yet in his case it isn’t. His hard work and stubborn determination which took several years paid off:

“He would be the omnipotent god of scent, just as he had been in his fantasies, but this time in the real world and over real people. And he know that all this was within his power. For people could close their eyes for greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they could not escape scent… He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.” (161, Perfume)

Much is to be said or written about Süskind’s genius. Considering how many reviews of this book has been out there, perhaps, I’ll just have to supply one point. 🙂

  • The author used his reader’s perception about villains to help distinguish his character, Grenouille. And I think that that is always brilliant.

“There were no mad flashings of the eye, no lunatic grimace passed over his face. He was not out of his mind, which was so clear and buoyant that he asked himself why he wanted to do it at all. And he said to himself that he wanted to do it because he was evil, thoroughly evil. And he smiled as he said it and was content.” (161, Perfume)

Overall, Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume is more than a just murder story. It’s a journey that comes in full circle as Grenouille rediscovers his self.

“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.” (260, Perfume)



Appreciating the Films, Arrival (2016) & Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Film: Arrival


A friend egged me to watch Arrival. I remember seeing it’s trailer but that’s it. He goes around to tell me I NEED to watch it. And try to offer the reasons why without giving away spoilers. Which is hard… but with his constant hand tapping, a gesture he does when he’s really excited, I knew I had to relent.

And so I watched it. Taking cues from my friend’s “warning” about some scenes that looked like memories, I had no choice but to eye everything suspiciously. The beginning felt very much familiar, the character’s having one hell of a tough day and as more scenes of a dying daughter come in view, a tug in this viewer’s heart gets pulled (let’s just say that grieving is also familiar). I think anyone would be easily pulled just as I had been if one fails to see how unfailingly isolated the scenes were, how the starting scenes gravitated towards her and her alone. No “condolences” from colleagues at work? It was like throwing a rock at a puddle and seeing no ripple. Now, something is off.

Fast forward: we get to the part where the big reveal is. And the denouement swiftly takes us where the real action is — her making for the run against time, changing people’s minds…

Post-movie feels and I’m walking my way to work. Waiting for the red light so I could cross. My mind reels back to the movie and I thought if I had a special ability, would I use it? In movies where there’s a conflict and that special ability is a requirement fitting to solve that conflict, it’s easy to say ‘yes.’ But at present, where I live and breathe as a plain mortal, I think I ought not to use it. Why? Because for me that same thing I can use to help, I can so easily use to harm others. It’s not difficult to say why or how; I’m a mere mortal, with no omniscience, no gift of foresight, I will never fully grasp the reason why, more so, act on it. This is what makes up for most hero- or origin-story: the conflict that arises from a mortal having immortal powers or special abilities. …

Film: Beauty and the Beast


There’s this scene in the movie Beauty and the Beast, wherever a rose’s petal fall, parts of the castle fall, too. Before I would think that those were just visual allusions to the story’s magical reality. Yet, now I guess I know better. During my father’s episode (he suffered stroke), new patterns of living came to manifest. We started to stay more at his bedside at the hospital. If not, I’d be at our office working and my sister at school. Our house became a silent refuge of fatigued bodies. Otherwise, it was empty. Then came the days were we’re all home, when his hospital stay was over. Bizarre things would happen. Our glass dining table broke into half. That glass was seriously thick and we didn’t do anything to break it. There was just that loud resounding crack. The glass table looked karate-chopped! Then our mint-colored refrigerator. It was one of the oldest appliances that we owned. And it would have been natural to see it break down if not for the dining table’s abrupt end.

So what I’m basically saying is, perhaps, not all visual allusions are definite forms of (exaggerated) effects. When the well-being of the inhabitants of a house start to go down, such gradual ruin could also manifest in the physical realm – outside of the inhabitant’s body. In the Beast’s case, his castle… while for my father’s, the glass dining table and mint-colored refrigerator.