Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [Patrick Suskind]

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Penulis/Author: Patrick Suskind (1985)
Penerbit/Publisher: Penguin
Cetakan/Edition: 51st, 1987
Kategori/Category: Fiction
ISBN: 0-140-12083-1

The minimalistic of the cover and title somehow gave the impression of sweetness and something smells good, which I related to the content of the book ignoring the fact that it actually has a subtitle “The Story of a Murderer”, typed in a smaller font size than the word “Perfume”.

Born under the table, in a fish market, on one Paris hot summer day, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille arrived on earth with nothing but a cold rejection. There’s nothing special about him, but that’s not the reason why he is forgotten. His presence was as substantial as French famous people “but his gift and sole ambition were restricted to the fleeting realm of scent, which leaves no trace in history” (Part One, page 3).

Grenouille has the strongest olfactory sense (hence, nose) in the entire world, which he uses to lead his way in darkness or in light, to recognise things and people, even to land him on a job with Baldini, the master of parfumery. Since he was a baby, Grenouille has already carried a greediness which troubled him to stay with any wet nurses assigned to feed him. Other than that, Grenouille carries no feelings towards anything. He cannot divide bad from good, happiness from sadness, light from dark and so on, he simply lives his life with his nose. He can define millions of different smells but he doesn’t have preference one from the others.

Two incidents in his life, namely his illness during his employment with Baldini and his seven years living in an isolated cave, gave him the ambition of finding and creating the ultimate scent: the human scent, the thing which affects human behaviours and minds but Grenouille lacks of it. He is odourless, or perhaps, he is simply unable to smell himself. What Grenouille fails to realise is, it wasn’t perfume that drives people’s behaviour and mind. True, his perfumes made Baldini grew greedier, it made Marquis de la Taillade-Espinasse sucked into his fluidium lethal theory, his ultimate perfume made Consular Richi adopted him and it also unleashed the beasts on people and causing a mass orgy. But Grenouille himself is odourless and he is the cause for those evil things. While his human scent perfumes have triggered people’s behaviour, Grenouille’s odourlessness didn’t make him a pure person either.

The book is divided into four parts and each part is telling one phase of Grenouille life that brings doom to anyone involved with him. I personally found the story absurd as it against “all the rules” of humanity, including Grenouille self-proclaim being greater than God, who Grenouille associates with burning candles scent from the church altar.

Referring to the initial explanation of Grenouille’s characters that don’t have preference within bad and good, even smell-wise, I found it to be inconsistent with Grenouille being able to create the finest perfumes during his employment with Baldini. It shows that Grenouille actually has preference within one smell to the other, what scent should be more and what should be less to make a ‘fine’ mixture, hence he could tell which mixture would smell good and which ones would smell bad. Another thing that I find inconsistent is the fact that Grenouille feels satisfy ‘being desired’ when he wore his ultimate perfume which unleashed the beast in everyone who saw and smelled him. I can understand his satisfaction of finally able to create it, as it was his adventure during 2 years and 25 virginal maids, but ‘satisfaction of being desired’ is another thing that has nothing to do with his smelling sense, hence he actually has a feeling!

However, reading this novel would give a different kind of adventure to the readers. It certainly needs an open-mind and a daring heart to finish the entire novel as it presents many challenging scenes.


9 thoughts on “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [Patrick Suskind]

  1. indres says:

    It’s a unique way to tell a murder story isn’t it? I think whether Grenouille’s characters doesn’t or does classify smell is irrelevant with his ability in creating perfume. He knows which smell that could manipulate one’s behaviour in such a way and he uses that knowlegde to create “ultimate” perfume.

  2. it is a unique novel, it makes you wonder whether you should pity or hate Grenouille. the ending is dramatic and makes you feel relieved, for Grenouille vanished from the world carrying his feeling of greatness being the master of human behaviour but at the same time you feel like telling him “Look Grenouille, there’s more to life than the ability of smelling and you missed them all!”

    additional info: the film based on the novel has been released, please refer to

  3. hi Rey…kangen euy!
    aku sdh punya novel Perfume ini (tentu sj edisi bhs ind), tapi blm sempat bacanya :)

    eh iya, mau lebaran. Maafkan semua kesalahanku ya, Rey…

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