Friday, March 09, 2007
"Perfume" Patrick Susskind ****
Amazon.com says: Upon its publication last year in Germany Susskind's first novel Perfume immediately became an international best seller. Set in 18th-century France, Perfume relates the fascinating and horrifying tale of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a person as gifted as he was abominable. Born without a smell of his own but endowed with an extraordinary sense of smell, Grenouille becomes obsessed with procuring the perfect scent that will make him fully human. With brilliant narrative skill Susskind exposes the dark underside of the society through which Grenouille moves and explores the disquieting inner universe of this singularly possessed man. The translation is superb. Essential for literature collections.
I say: Geez... And I thought that Running With Scissors was messed up! Patrick Susskind has taken "sick" to a whole new level, but in a completely unimaginable way. And the worsed part is that you totally empthise with the murderer and you completely want him to succeed. (A lot like American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, where you so want Pat Bateman to get away with it all!) This book gets top marks for creativity and imagination. And it has to be one of the best researched book of all time. Only after I read it, did I read the bit about the author... turns out that Susskind is a historian. That would certainly explain the attention to detail. I've also got to give top marks to the translator. If you've ever tried to translate something from one language to another, the first thing that you realise is that a literal word-for-word / phrase-for-phrase translation is simply insufficient in getting the message across. Certain parts of language rarely mean what they actually are written as anyway (proverbs, sayings...). Any literary theorist (like myself) will tell you that language is an ever evolving means of communication that is loaded with social implications that are specific to where/what/why/how it's used. To cut a long story short... you can't just translate a book to get its meaning across. You have to rewrite it using "the language of the people/time". What a special book! Just read it, - trust me!