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210 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1985
“I don’t mean what’s in the diaper. His soil smells, that’s true enough. But it’s the bastard himself, he doesn’t smell.”Babies have a smell, some stink, but underneath it, there's always a warm, cuddly smell that even a cold, heartless, child-hating woman such as I can appreciate. Grenouille has no scent.
They could not stand the nonsmell of him. They were afraid of him.As a teen, he sought work at a tannery in Paris. Paris is a stinking pit of hell. To Grenouille...it is heaven, with its amalgamation of scents.
It was a mixture of human and animal smells, of water and stone and ashes and leather, of soap and fresh-baked bread and eggs boiled in vinegar, of noodles and smoothly polished brass, of sage and ale and tears, of grease and soggy straw and dry straw. Thousands upon thousands of odors formed an invisible gruel that filled the street ravines, only seldom evaporating above the rooftops and never from the ground below.Grenouille knew he was not normal, but his obsession for the pursuit of a scent never really gained traction until he committed his first murder, for love of a virgin's scent.
...the sweat of her armpits, the oil in her hair, the fishy odor of her genitals, and smelled it all with the greatest pleasure. Her sweat smelled as fresh as the sea breeze, the tallow of her hair as sweet as nut oil, her genitals were as fragrant as the bouquet of water lilies, her skin as apricot blossoms... and the harmony of all these components yielded a perfume so rich, so balanced, so magical, that every perfume that Grenouille had smelled until now, every edifice of odors that he had so playfully created within himself, seemed at once to be utterly meaningless.The scent of a living human being that he must commit to memory, that he must capture, in the way a flower collector dries a specimen within parchment, in the way an insect lover kills and pins to a page the very thing he loves.
When she was dead he laid her on the ground among the plum pits, tore off her dress, and the stream of scent became a flood that inundated him with its fragrance. He thrust his face to her skin and swept his flared nostrils across her, from belly to breast, to neck, over her face and hair, and back to her belly, down to her genitals, to her thighs and white legs. He smelled her over from head to toe, he gathered up the last fragments of her scent under her chin, in her navel, and in the wrinkles inside her elbow.His is an obsessive quest that will lead him to murder again, and again, and again, in this desperate search.
Grenouille knew for certain that unless he possessed this scent, his life would have no meaning.This is a book in which the title is completely self-explanatory. It is about a murderer, and his obsessive quest for a perfect perfume. It's something I understand, in my constant search for the Holy Grail of fragrances.