How many books stay with you after a year? Five years? A decade? I remember reading The Perfume while in high school, about twenty years ago and it is as if I was immersed into Suskind's masterpiece only yesterday.
The story unfolds effortlessly and you are made to simply accept Grenouille's unique gift, life-long obsession and bittersweet curse. Olfaction is a mysterious sense to begin with. It is atavistic, inescapably emotional and resistant to mnemonic recall. And Suskind expertly builds on these fleeing attributes a robust story, one that brings to mind first experiences and reticent desires and concealed fears.
The book is not only majestic but it is also set in a biblical-like footing. The protagonist treads through life like a forgettable ghost. Then he goes into an intense self-exile, fasting in a cave before coming into the wold to fulfill his mission. And even though his mission is as ethereal and ephemeral as a passing scent, no one will be able to forget him.
The movie was a good adaptation but it does not even compare to the experience of reading the book.