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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1985)

by Patrick Süskind

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
15,307381244 (3.95)401
Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets as a child, but grows up to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human's. Soon, he is creating the most sublime fragrances in Paris. Yet there is one odour he cannot capture. It is exquisite, magical: the scent of a young virgin. And to get it he must kill. And kill. And kill ...… (more)
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    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (spiphany)
  2. 73
    Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (klerulo)
    klerulo: Both these works attempt to get inside the head of singularly amoral sociopathic murderers.
  3. 40
    The Bells by Richard Harvell (SimoneA)
    SimoneA: Where Perfume is about a boy who has an extraordinary sense of smell, The Bells is about a boy who has extraordinary hearing. The vivid description of sounds in The Bells remind me of the description of scents in Perfume.
  4. 20
    The Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred by Carl-Johan Vallgren (olyvia)
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    Brother of Sleep by Robert Schneider (HazardMain)
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    The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (norabelle414)
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    De Sade's Valet by Nikolaj Frobenius (bluepiano)
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    The Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser (KittyTwist)
    KittyTwist: The dark side of human nature, presented in compelling, addictive writing that leaves you hungry for more...
  10. 22
    The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (spiphany)
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    An Absolute Gentleman by R. M. Kinder (GirlMisanthrope)
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    Tongue by Kyung Ran Jo (infiniteletters)
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    Zeroville by Steve Erickson (VisibleGhost)
    VisibleGhost: An obsession with movies instead of scent.
  14. 44
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (freya727)
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    The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Rosey_Kim)
    Rosey_Kim: Lemon Cake also deals with supernaturally heightened human senses (taste rather than smell) and has a similarly evocative sense of environment.
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1980s (16)
Europe (509)

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» See also 401 mentions

English (278)  Spanish (39)  French (14)  Dutch (13)  Italian (12)  German (8)  Swedish (5)  Portuguese (Portugal) (3)  Portuguese (Brazil) (3)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (379)
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
This book has it all: history, legend, mystery, chemistry, and a serial killer! Perfume tells the story of the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who had a remarkable nose for scent, the ability to smell people from miles away, but had no odor of his own. Grenouille, an apprentice to a great perfumer, learned the trade and put his abilities to use to make some of the most wonderful perfumes Paris had ever smelt. While on his mission to create a scent of his own, he created a perfume so sweet smelling that it gives the person wearing it control over the emotions of the people around him. He begins to murder young virgin women, taking their human odor so that he could create that perfect scent.

It took me about a third of the way through the book before I became involved. The descriptions are wonderful and Jean-Baptiste has a sinister, powerful charisma. His adventures in finding his perfect scent, manipulating those around him, achieving mastery of his craft, and accomplishing his crimes are amazing. The story also gives a nice historical touch to the story, depicting the poverty, wealth, degradation and depravity of the times in a France that may be post-Revolution but is none the better for the overwhelming changes. The poor and downtrodden are still the poor and downtrodden.

Perfume is a deeply analytical study of the social and economic mores of the time, as well as a lesson in human behavior. The historic detail is meticulous and fascinating, as is the process of perfume making, much of which is described here. I've heard both good and bad reviews about this story. I found it to be a compelling tale and I'm happy I finally had a chance to read it for myself. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jul 2, 2020 |
Malende, visuelle, ironiske beskrivelser om duft for oss som ikke er velsignet med en parfymørs nese, om menneskelig enkelhet, brutalitet og fornedrelse. Stinkende eksesser beskrevet med språklig bravur og mørk humor - Sweeney Todd, gå hjem og vogg, her har du møtt din overmann. ( )
  LineL | Jun 29, 2020 |
Orphaned, unwanted
misanthropic stink wizard
redheads smell the best. ( )
1 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
As a chemist who has worked with "essential oils", the basis for perfumes, I found this imaginative novel to have a wonderful premise, which held me even after the plot became more fantastic than my tastes would normally tolerate. I think it should have had much more good press than it got. Well worth reading. ( )
  hcubic | Jun 20, 2020 |
This is one hell of a strange inversion of a Jesus Allegory.

It's absolutely obsessed with the idea of innocence and scents, but more than that, it's a veritable encyclopedia of tons of smells. Borne of effluvia, the brilliance of his nose and his analytical ability sends him to the forefront of the perfumery business in Paris, nearly 300 years ago. Still steeped in effluvia, he discovers a dark secret about himself... he has no scent.

Of evil impulse and indefatigable drive, he recreates all kinds of scents and eventually creates the ultimate essence of innocence... and he, this empty, scentless creature of effluvia becomes, at least in the noses of everyone around him, the ultimate expression of love.

This was very, very fun. I particularly love inversions of old tropes. The ending fits so nicely. :)

A simple tale, a cornucopia of smells and description, and a fitting tale of justice.
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
"From start to finish, Perfume is a ridiculously improbable piece of verbose claptrap which the author himself evidently found impossible to take seriously for very long at a time....Since very little happens within Grenouille's mind, and he achieves with other characters no relations capable of development, the book requires a good deal of stuffing to achieve the dimensions of a small novel. The best of this material is several different listings of the materials and procedures involved in perfume making. Suskind has done his homework on the topic....The writing of the book is verbose and theatrical."
added by Nickelini | editNew York Review of Books, Robert M. Adams (pay site) (Nov 1, 1986)
Just as Grenouille can manufacture a perfume that infallibly conjures up the same response in anyone who senses it, so Mr. Suskind creates words that provide a satisfying illusion of another time. Grenouille the perfumer becomes a kind of novelist, creating phantom objects in the air, but Mr. Suskind himself is a perfumer of language. This is a remarkable debut.
A delight to the senses, disturbing serial killer, must read!

» Add other authors (68 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Süskind, PatrickAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agabio, GiovannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Flávio R. KotheTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giralt Gorina, PilarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jonkers, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vilar, JudithTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wallenström, UlrikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watteau, AntoineCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woods, John E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In eighteenth century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages.
Hij sloot zijn ogen en concentreerde zich op de geuren die hem vanuit het gebouw aan de andere kant toewaaiden. Daar waren de geuren van de vaten, azijn en wijn en de honderdvoudige zware geuren uit het magazijn, en de geur van de rijkdom die als fijn gouden zweet uit de muren transpireerde en tenslotte de geuren uit de tuin die aan de achterkant van het huis moest liggen. Het was niet makkelijk deze tere geurtoetsen uit de tuin op te vangen, want ze trokken slechts in smalle linten over de gevel van het huis heen omlaag door de straat. Grenouille onderscheidde magnolia's, hyacinten, peperboompjes en rododendron.. - maar er leek nog iets anders te zijn, iets moorddadigs lekkers, dat in deze tuin geurde, een geur zo exquis als hij in zijn leven nog niet - of toch, maar dan maar één keer - in zijn neus had gehad...Hij moest dichter bij deze geur komen.
“Never before in his life had he known what happiness was. He knew at most some very rare states of numbed contentment. But now he was quivering with happiness and could not sleep for pure bliss. It was as if he had been born a second time; no, not a second time, the first time, for until now he had merely existed like an animal with a most nebulous self-awareness. but after today, he felt as if he finally knew who he really was: nothing less than a genius... He had found the compass for his future life. And like all gifted abominations, for whom some external event makes 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... the greatest perfumer of all time.”
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Haiku summary
smell everything /
got lost in a world of greed /
devoured at market 
basic boy meets girl/
boy's fine nose loves girl's fine scent/
boy wants girl pomade

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Average: (3.95)
0.5 11
1 88
1.5 18
2 273
2.5 62
3 746
3.5 239
4 1630
4.5 239
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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140120831, 0141037504, 0141041153, 0734306768

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