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Author: Patrick Süskind, German writer and screenwriter
With Jean-Baptiste Grenouille one of the most unusual fictional characters enters the stage of German literary history. Secretly born in a Parisian fish stall in the summer of 1738, he narrowly escapes death by his mother, who actually wanted to dispose of him like four earlier children and is therefore executed as a child murderer. It is no coincidence that it was unintentional, that the fish stall just like most of the alleys and people of the time, and that Grenouille's birthplace borders directly on a cemetery, is no coincidence, because deprivation of love, smells and death are basic constants throughout his existence.
At first he grew up as an isolated orphan with meager food, under a lot of humiliation and without any empathy from his educators. And yet it has two quirks that allow it to survive and drive it. On the one hand there is his unconditional will to live and on the other hand his superhuman ingenious sense of smell, which allows him to perceive the entire world in detail with his nose. While exploring Paris by smell, he is attracted by the breathtaking scent of a young girl who the emotionally stunted Grenouille then murders in an urge to possess his body odor. Determined to become the greatest perfumer of all time and to learn methods of preserving fragrances, he becomes an apprentice in a perfumery - and, in turn, leaves death and ruin after drawing his benefit.
Only after several years of self-isolation, during which the olfactory genius sorts the gigantic fragrance library in his mind, does he realize with shock that he has no odor of his own. After all, he composes this himself and manipulates his fellow human beings at will. After he has finally learned all the necessary technical techniques for fragrance preservation and perfume production, he becomes a serial killer in order to create his master perfume, which should make him superior to all people and loved by them. He kills young girls in rows, whom he "needs" for this, as the later arrested person reports succinctly to the police. Thanks to his perfect perfumery masterpiece, he can initially evade the consequences and subjugate all people, but then, disgusted and disaffected by them, he decides to use the ultimate perfume in other ways in order to escape his mental torments ...
With translations in almost 50 languages, over 20 million books sold, almost a whole decade in the SPIEGEL bestseller list and one of the most expensive German films of all time, Patrick Süskind's "Perfume - The Story of a Murderer" is one of the world's biggest bestsellers among German-language novels of the 20th century.
The work's recipes for success lie primarily in the fascinating subject, neglected by literature, of the fleeting world of fragrances, smells and perfumes, which are described in such detail and skill that the reader often thinks he smells them himself when reading it. In addition to this common thread, there is of course the tragic person of the antihero, who repels as a serial killer without empathy, but whose motive for this in the search for respect and love seems understandable. But the numerous and complex other motifs, themes and allusions of the work are also convincing. For example, the novel tells us how sensual influencing factors unconsciously manipulate our thoughts and actions while we consider ourselves to be self-directed. In addition, the story is an unmasking moral picture in which petty-bourgeois and anti-enlightenment thinking is targeted with simultaneous overestimation of themselves by many groups and strata, from ordinary people and merchants to the clergy to justice and pseudoscience. One of the great qualities of the novel is the seemingly easy narrative style, the clear language and the constant, partly open, partly subtle irony, which often makes the text an amusing reading pleasure.
All these complexities of content and formal advantages make it possible to read the novel as a fascinating and entertaining development, educational, artist, fantasy, horror and detective novel - and at the same time as a parody of these genres. Quite simply a masterpiece of contemporary German literature.
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