Smelling with Words

This was initially supposed to be a Facebook post, but it simply got too long. Several years ago, I started reading Perfume by Patrick Süskind. I wasn’t expecting much—maybe a twisted thriller or a simple, mass market murder mystery with “scent forensics” as the unifying thread. The last thing I was expecting was a work of art. Indeed, it was slow going at the front end, but I kept reading simply because of the sheer artistry of the writing. Eventually, however, the story picked up, and I finished the book because of the compelling, albeit perverse, plot. But, again, it was the writing that made this book brilliant. And I’m not speaking simply about vocabulary, which, by the way, I felt was not the least bit pretentious. And while certainly the style is both unique and pristine, I believe it was Süskind’s descriptive prowess that made the book a masterpiece. To be able to capture scent with words in a way that the reader can almost smell it emanating from the book—that’s remarkable. Continue reading