I first saw the movie Perfume and quite enjoyed it, especially the bits about how (a long and difficult process) and why, perfumes were originally made; to mask body odours at a time in history when daily washing wasn’t an option. I found a copy of the book of the same name by Patrick Suskind at one of the book stalls in Federation Square Atrium and discovered, as is often the case, there was so much more in the book that the movie omitted for obvious reasons.
Silly me! I always thought perfume was a variety of sweet smelling scents extracted from flowers. The book is not just about a cold and calculating murderer. It is essentially about body odour; pleasant, not so pleasant and downright putrid if accounts in the book are anything to go by. Pheromones are among consciously undetectable human odours and the book dwells on these. It brings to mind a conversation I overheard one day. A European man rather rudely remarked to an Indian man, “Why do you guys always smell like curry?” I smiled to myself when the Indian man replied, “Why do you people always smell like dairy products?” I must confess until then, I didn’t think we humans had any personal odours other than unpleasant ones if we didn’t wash enough.
This is a great read. You will be aghast at the way people lived in the eighteenth century and how important it was to find the right perfume for personal and other uses. The fact that some perfumes suit only certain people and some perfumes are lost on others now makes more sense to me. I will never view perfume from the same perspective again.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 28 June 2010