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)



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