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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
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ARCHIVE 2012 > Nov 2012 - Perfume: The Story of a Murderer: Chapters 1-15 (Contains Spoilers)

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message 1: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Nov 01, 2012 06:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara (KaraAyako) | 3775 comments Welcome to the group read! This thread is for discussion of chapters one through 15.

Kristy | 58 comments Just finished chapter 15. I thought it'd be beneficial to post some discussion questions. Here's a few for the first few chapters:

1.Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in a food market that had been erected above the Cimetiere des Innocents. He barely escapes death at his birth; his mother would have let him die among the fish guts as she had her four other children. But Grenouille miraculously survives. How would you relate the circumstances of his birth to the life he grows up to live?

2. Throughout the novel, Grenouille compared to a tick. Why do you think Süskind chose this analogy? In what ways does Grenouille behave like a tick? What does this analogy reveal about his character that a more straightforward description would not?

3.Grenouille is born with a supernaturally developed sense of smell. He can store and synthesize thousands of odors within himself and re-create them at will. How do you interpret this extraordinary ability? Do you think such a sensitivity to odor is physically possible? Do you feel Süskind wants us to read his novel as a kind of fable or allegory? Why do you think Süskind chose to build his novel around the sense of smell instead of one of the other senses?

4.What motivates Grenouille to commit his first murder? What does he discover about himself and his destiny after he has killed the red-haired girl?

Lilac  | 810 comments Just finished chapter 15 and I really enjoyed it. I'll only answer question 3 for now.

Yes, I think it would be physically possible although extremely rare and it would perhaps require an awful lot of effort, much more then it does for Grenouille. The author probably chose smell over the other senses because it is less explored in literature and other arts than the others and he probably appreciated smell more than most people so might have wanted to share it's wonders. On the other hand, he might have met someone with a great sense of smell and imagined someone similar living in the past.

Anyway, this book has been really interesting so far and I hope the rest is this good. If so then this will probably get a good 4 stars off me. :)

message 4: by Kara, TBR Twins (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara (KaraAyako) | 3775 comments Started, and it's been way different than I had expected! I've been really enjoying it. (I haven't read the previous posts in this thread yet because I'm not yet done with the 15th chapter, but I will come back when I am.)

Toni | 263 comments I am enjoying this book. Like Kara said, it is different than what I expected. With regard to question 3, I would think that this "gift" that Grenouille has could be a curse - imagine how overwhelming the smells would be in that time period and in a city as crowded as Paris. I wonder if the "gift" will become a "curse" at some point for Grenouille.

As far as the choice to use the sense of smell, I think you are on to something Lilac with it being a less commonly explored in literature than the other senses. Also, they say that smell and memory are linked so perhaps the author will do some playing in that area as the book goes on.

message 6: by Kara, TBR Twins (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara (KaraAyako) | 3775 comments Totally agree, Toni. I think at first, while he's collecting smells, it wasn't a curse because he was so curious about experiencing all of them. But then, after he smelled all the smells Paris had to offer, I imagine that it would become awful.

I also agree with Lilac. Smell, as the author states, is the basest of the senses which makes it less appealing to write about.

And great questions, Kuri! I'm going to have to think on them and get back to this thread.

Elizabeth | 11 comments Wildangelkuri, as I recall the book says Les Innocents Cemetery was exhumed and replaced with a food market near the "eve of the revolution" which would put it at late 1700s, but Grenouille was born on July 17, 1738. so I had to go look up Cimetière des Innocents in Wikipedia, and then read the passage again, and then finally I got the geography and timeline sorted in my mind. The book says Le Cimetière des Innocents was inbetween "the rue aux Fers and the rue de la Ferroniere" and goes on to describe a brief history of the cemetery, then goes straight into a new paragraph about the birth of Grenouille. The part that threw me was: "...and in its place a food market was erected.(end paragraph)Here then, on the most putrid spot in the whole kingdom, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born..." The editor or translator should have fixed that to be less confusing . But reading on, it says that Grenouille's mother is in a fish stall in the rue aux Fers, and also describes the smell of corpses from the very nearby mass graveyard being covered by the smell of rotten fish. Wikipedia confirms that the Cimetière was right smack next to the central market of Paris. I hope this clears things up for everyone, as I'm surely not the only one who was confused by this. I recommend looking at the wikipedia page as it's not very long and has some cool etchings of Le Cimetière and a charnel house. Protip: if you would like to enjoy some wide awake nightmares, google image search for "charnel house", forthwith.

message 8: by Elizabeth (last edited Nov 20, 2012 02:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth | 11 comments 1. "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more" -- Pozzo, Waiting For Godot.
Grenouille could have died during his early childhood quite easily, and the world might have been spared a serial murderer. But at every crucial point where his life would have been at risk, luck turns his way. As if he was fated to live his particular type of life by some outside force. I don't think it's providence that is writing his fate though, but serendipity. He's bound to be some kind of sociopath with a childhood like that, devoid of love.

2. A tick who waits until the precise right moment to drop, hopefully landing right on a host. I think this is saying that he takes his fate into his own hands as much as it is possible to do. Grenouille has a purpose and a drive in life, and he lives his life for himself and nobody else. A tick is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but can make a choice once in its lifetime that might change its fate.

3. Not only does he have a supernatural sense of smell, he has no smell of his own! I wonder if someone could be born with no pheromones? But I don't think about it too much, because I don't believe the author is trying to be realistic. This isn't hard sci-fi.

It is interesting that he is beginning to sort his smell catalogue into "good" and "bad" smells. Will he eventually learn to naturally react with disgust to all the disgusting smells around him? Life would soon become intolerable if you had to smell every disgusting thing around you all the time AND have the "correct" emotional response to it.

Kelsi * Essentially Booked *  | 753 comments I like this. I was expecting a bit more of a quick pace, but the story is great and way darker than I expected.

In response to #2: The tick analogy really works for Grenouille because he is soul sucking. He waits patiently for the perfect opportunity to come along and then launches himself right into the situation. He is always lurking in the shadows, unseen until it counts and hurts.

#4. The smell of the Virgin was so enticing and wonderful, a scent he had never gotten before. I saw him getting sucked up into the moment and losing all control for the allure of the virgin, thus murdering her. I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out, because you hear little about the murder after it occurs. He feels no guilt or remorse, but just continues on his quest of smells.

message 10: by Kara, TBR Twins (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kara (KaraAyako) | 3775 comments I think that's a really interesting point, Kelsi, about Grenoille not feeling guilt or remorse. For him, it seems the only good, moral or otherwise, is in smell. In Grenoille's quest for smells, the ends justify the means, there can be no higher good. It was a unique motivation for a character.

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