Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Novel by Patrick Sueskind Powerpoint by Lorie Brown
Patrick Sueskind: the Life and story The Man himself Short Bio and facts • Born in Bavaria—or southern Germany—in 1949 in a town by Muenchen called Ambach an Starnberger See. • His father, Wilhelm Emanuel Sueskind, also a writer and journalist, was famous for his co-authoring of the essay collections called “From the dictionary of the Inhuman”, a work on the language of the Nazi era. • He is descended from the aristocracy of Wuertemburg, his heritage extending back as far as famous theologian and protestant reformer Johannes Brenz in 15th century. He is also related to Johan Albrecht Bengel a Greek language scholar. • Coming from an educated family, Sueskind was not only well-cultivated in writing but learned in Latin, Greek, Spanish, English, Politics and Theology—all courses he studied at the University in Muenchen and then in France at the Aix-en-Provence from 1968-1974. • He lived and studied in Paris using his parents’ as a financial crutch. There he spent his time like any other artist in the flourishing artistic Mecca, exploring the Urban atmosphere and writing short stories and essays, as well as gaining his inspiration for the novel.
Other Works and Motivations • His first work that helped him establish his breakthrough in 1981 was a play called The Doublebass, a story of a man and his love hate relationship with his musical instrument that portrays humanity’s own self-importance. • Other works of his that are popular in Germany are The Pigeon, and The story of Mr. Sommer, all published in the late eighties and early nineties. • Although he stuck mainly to the writing of novels and short stories he also wrote the screenplay for Rossini—for which he won the Screenplay prize of German Culture—and other T.V productions. • However, his most famous work continues to be Das Parfum, or Perfume: the story of a murderer, which has been translated into 46 languages and was made into a film directed by Tom Tyker. • For this work he has been proclaimed the most well-known contemporary German writer; Perfume was considered the bestselling novel in Germany by Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, for nine years in a row. • There are no records of him being married or ever being in any serious relationships; he has no known children and very little is known about his personal life. • Today, he continues to live a reclusive life in his hometown, refusing any interviews and keeping to himself. He has no recent works and keeps quietly to himself.
Context • The Cold War and separation between west and east Germany. • Reunification, the fall of the Berlin wall. • Some Nazi perspective: Grenouille, the tick, learning to take advantage of scent for his own value, can be seen as a dictator.
Plot Synopsis • Jean BaptisteGrenouille is born into a pile of fish innards under the table of a fish sellers stand where his mother leaves him to die. • Rejected by everyone at a young age—the nurse who dumps him, the priest who fears him, and the children who try to kill him—Grenouille is sent to a tanner, where his job of mixing poisonous tanning fluids proved to be very dangerous. • Grenouille is sent to Master Giuseppe Baldini to deliver hides, where he proves the worth of his nose by recreating a rival perfumer’s scent, Amor and Psyche, before Baldini; he is taken immediately as an apprentice. • Baldini uses Grenouille to make him terribly rich while Grenouille learns the art of distillery; things however deteriorate as Grenouille finds that distilling cannot preserve the scent of all objects. He falls fatally ill, only to recover when Baldini assures him that he can learn other ways to preserve scent in Grasse. • Grenouille attempts to go to Grasse but finds himself taken where his nose goes, a place in the mountains of olfactory peace, where he sleeps in a cave and eats moss and snakes for seven years. He returns on his journey to Grasse when he finds that he, the emperor of scent, has no scent of his own, A baffling and contradictory discovery. • He encounters a man by the name of Taillade-Espinasse, a reknowned scientist, with a theory called Fluidiumletale, that believes Grenouille to be under the infectious and killer influence of earth’s gas after being trapped in a cave by thieves for so long. He reforms Grenouille appearance by treating him for his illness, basically giving him a make-over. • Here he learns to master the scents of humans and begins his master perfume, a scent made of the mixtures of virgins. A scent so potent, it could make him ruler of the world.
Themes and Motifs • Scent and Perfumes: Not only does it describe the very essence of objects and things but the soul and personality of each individual. Although people without talents similar to Grenouille are unaware of their scents power on others, it tells their intentions and provides an effect or a hunch on others. Grenouille utilizes this to make scents of each personality to help him commit his crimes. The scent of inconspicuous people, agreeable people, charming people, he makes them all to get his way. However, he has no soul of his own because he has no scent, which distances him from the rest of humanity—the reason everyone finds him to be so repulsing. • “Nothing was found, not the bodies, not the safe, not the little books with their six hundred formulas. Only one thing remained of GuiseppeBaldini, Europe’s greatest perfumer; a very motley odor—of musk, cinnamon, vinegar,lavender, and a thousand others things—that took several weeks to float high above the Seine from Paris to Le Havre.” • Virgins: They exude a scent completely dynamic and characteristic only of the young, pure, blossoming woman and it infatuates all those who succumb to it; it is the literal smell of innocence, like an angel. In a corrupt world, they are desired and those surrounding them want to destroy whatever innocence they have. Grenouille, in an even more abominable fashion, tries to preserve their innocence by destroying it in the most final of ways. Death. • Insects and Ticks: Constantly, Grenouille is compared to a lurking, dormant tick or bug of some sort, giving him the imagery of a despicable being with no sense in appearing human. He is the ultimate parasite, feeding on everyone about him he can get his grasp on until he no longer has any use for them—each time he is finished with his host they expire.
Rhetorical Techniques and analysis • Extended Metaphor and Simile • Extensive Imagery • Little Dialogue • Third person Omniscient • Deep contrast between monstrosity and innocence. • ““The young Grenouille was such a tick. He encapsulated in himself and waited for better times. He gave the world nothing but his dung—no smile, no cry, no glimmer in the eye, not even his own scent. Every other woman would have kicked this monstrous child out.” • Not only does Grenouille live a quite disturbing existence in the eyes of humanity by living off very little but consuming for all it is worth whenever he is given a chance but unlike the others he lacks scent—in this case any and all personality and human sociability. The boy is incapable of being snuffed out from this world and it would be a better world if he could be as he has the power to look on the inside of every nook and cranny of a person’s soul yet if that person could see inside his they would find nothing. Despite, their inability to perceive the world of scent that he may, their human instincts do tell them that inside him there is nothing to observe; he doesn’t show any emotions because he has none. • “The child seemed to be smelling right through his skin, into his innards. His most tender emotions, his filthiest thoughts lay exposed to that greedy little nose, which wasn’t even a proper nose, but only a pug of a nose, a tiny perforated organ, forever crinkling and puffing and quivering. Terrier shuddered. He felt sick to his stomach.” • It is merely the beginning of the story and thus far we know the main character—a protagonist who is not supported and more than slightly reviled by the audience—to be simply an infant, a baby that is helpless and would normally deserve all the pity and chance in the world. Yet, Sueskind utilizes in this quote a word choice appropriate for all the monstrosities present in the world to establish this child almost immediately as an abomination. This portrayal of a baby, a commonly soft and precious soul, sniffing the innards of a man and sucking the air for all its worth in a judgement not appropriate for a child, leaves the audience with a very tainted and disgusted image of a monster; the contrast of baby and a sniffling beast being joined together is ultimately repulsing and unwelcoming and the audience immediately starts off disliking the character.
The novel in comparison to the film • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES_rfgjeTuE • The film keeps the narration and follows the book relatively well, leaving out some important scenes that add to the magical realism aspects to the book, such as the myth of Fluidumletale. • Grenouille is far more good looking than the book describes him—not uncommon for Hollywood. He lacks a club foot, and shows no serious scaring from his many diseases; he is far more confident in the beginning of the book, and he is not shown to be quite as big of an abomination as in the novel rather a mere annoyance. • Brings out the Fairytale elements of the story but by making it more gruesome makes it too sinister to be a mere story—magical realism weaves into the film this way. • The director adds his own artistic finesse to the story by adding his own plot elements with the legend of the ancient Egyptian tombs, and turning the making of the perfume into a craft of unimaginable feats for Grenouille.