Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born amongst fish offals, is a peculiar child. He has an extraordinary sense of smell, yet he himself doesn´t have a smell of his own. As Grenouille becomes older, he gets more and more obsessed about the smells surrounding him and as time goes by there is only one thing he truly wants: creating the perfect perfume.
I have to admit, it´s very difficult to describe this book in a proper way, because it is utterly bizarre and weird. The ending is totally wacky and upon finishing this novel you will be left with a lot of head-scratching. Nevertheless I really liked this book and all its weirdness.
The story is told by an omniscient narrator in retrospect. The narrator knows what is going to happen and he has an opion about certain things, which he then expresses in a quite sarcastic way. As an example we follow the lives of Grenouilles acquaintances after he has left them and I had to chuckle a bit whilst reading these sidestories. I really appreciated the dark humour in this novel.
Another thing I particularly like is the way how Patrick Süskind describes the world by the mere use of smell. I have never read a more vivid description of 18th century France:
In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of mouldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlour stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber-pots. The stench of sulphur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwasched clothes, from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese, and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master´s wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the King himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the Queen like an old goat, summer and winter. [...]
So the whole book is very descriptive, but more by the means of smell than of sight and I find this a very unique way of descriping the world. I have never read anything like this before.
I´m not going to recommend this book to anyone, because it is one of these books that you either are going to love or hate. But I loved it. I think it´s a brilliant read.