Sunday, January 10, 2010
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
1. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born in a food market that had been erected above the Cimetire des Innocents, the "most putrid spot in the whole kingdom". He barely escapes death at his birth; his mother would have let him die among the fish guts as she had her four other children. But Grenouille miraculously survives. How would you relate the circumstances of his birth to the life he grows up to live?
2.Throughout the novel, Grenouille is likened to a tick. Why do you think Süskind chose this analogy? In what ways does Grenouille behave like a tick? What does this analogy reveal about his character that a more straightforward description would not?
3. What motivates Grenouille to commit his first murder? What does he discover about himself and his destiny ater he has killed the red-haired girl?
4. Do the descriptions of life in eighteenth-century France--the crowded quarters, the unsanitary conditions, the treatment of orphans, the punishment of criminals, etc.--surprise you? How are these conditions related to the ideals of enlightenment, reason, and progress that figure so prominently in eighteenth-century thinking?
5. The narrator remarks, "Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it" [p. 82]. Do you think this is true? Why would an odor have such power? In what ways does Grenouille use this power to his advantage?
6. Does Suskind manage to make Grenouille a sympathetic character, in spite of his murders and obsessions? Or do you find him wholly repellent? to what extent do his exoperiences shape his behaviour? Or do you think he is inherently evil?
7. Grenouille becomes, toward the end of the novel, a kind of olfactory vampire, killing young women to rob them of their scents. "What he coveted was the odor of certain human beings: that is, those rare humans who inspire love. These were his victims" [p. 188]. Why does he need the scents of these people?
8. How do you interpret the novel's ending, as Grenouille returns to the Cimeti�re des Innocents and allows himself to be murdered and eaten by the criminals who loiter there? What ironies are suggested by the narrator's assertion that Grenouille's killers had just done something, for the first time, "out of love" [p. 255]?
9. Perfume is set in eighteenth-century France and tells an extravagant story of a man possessed with a magical sense of smell and a bizarrely destructive obsession. Do its historical setting and fantastic elements make it harder or easier to identify with? What contemporary issues and anxieties does the story illuminate?
Posted by Tropical.stampa at 9:53 PM