Week 49: Perfume


The unequivocal fact is that Grenouille has talent. In the book, it is described as something innate, something built into him. His sense of smell is his defining feature and his life is devoted to cultivating that talent. Creating perfumes is a lot like creating any other kind of art, which begs the question: can creativity be taught? From the looks of it, there seems to be a level that one can reach with proper training, however, there are still some people who shine through no matter how hard you work. Baldini and Druot are the back up singers to Grenouille’s solo, and they will never reach his register. Clearly Grenouille serves only as an exaggeration, yet a powerful one in demonstrating how some people just seem to have it right from the go.

Then again, the amount of effort Grenouille puts into honing his craft, to learning all the possible ways to make perfumes, agreeing to work with practically no money or prospects, sacrificing everything else, speaks for itself. One may have an affinity towards a certain talent, yet have no knowledge of this, or better yet, regards it as completely irrelevant or unimportant and leaves their gift unused. This would no doubt frustrate those who are trying to reach the same level through hard work, without natural instincts. Jealousy plays a large part in that process, as well as frustration over our own inadequacies. Why are we pursuing this particlar route? Why spent time on something we cannot be the best at? Referring back to two weeks ago, the question of why we do anything is found somewhere deeper. Then I talked about how one should write even though they may not be “great” at it (again, according to whom?!) and this week I might just ask about the same situation but reversed. What if you have an amazing talent and it is recognised, yet you want nothing to do with it? I could venture to say that most of us learn eventually what where our streghts lie and also what peeks our interests. In Grenouille’s case, those two collided in a most beautiful way (okay, so I might be ignoring the murder parts here, bear with me…). This is not always the case. I have been binge watching Grey’s Anatomy again – during essay season as well…where is my life going… – and this reminded me of Ross trying to impress Derek with his hard work, before Brooks swoops in with her apparent talent in neuro. Ross clearly wanted to shine in neuro yet he lacked something essential that even he could not understand (luckily he found a home in cardio).

Lastly, it is a well known fact that you can achieve anything if you are willing to sacrifice everything else. Going back to the book, it is no wonder that Grenouille achieved what he did after a lifetime of devotion. But for him, it did not feel like that did it? He seemed to want nothing else, nothing more than only to create the most elegant scents in the world, culminating in the most powerful ever created. Exaggeration or not, he’s got a point there. Yet deciding what is the most important thing, the most valuable, the one we cannot live without…that is like picking only one favourite kind of food to eat for the rest of your life. You better make a choice that you can keep making every single day for the rest of your life and feel like you made the right choice.

that one sense

The sense of smell is one of the underrated ones. If asked, I would pick sight and hearing and touch over it in an instant. Taste is basically about smell, so maybe that can be sacrifised. But then I start to think about how much something so mundane like the sense of smell actually means, the result is quite revealing. When I think puppies, my mind is filled with the warm, slightly burning smell of their fur. Babies, with their powdery, mushy smell that just makes you want to press your nose against the top of their heads and inhale deeply. And then there is that special scent that eminates from a person dear to you, something defining and reassuring. This is a safe person. This is an important person. This is person so and so.

Smell defines a lot of things, and not just in our heads. There are articles in The Independent and The Guardian trying to explain why certain people are just so damn irresistible. Felix felicis, anyone? Who can forget Hermione having a heart attack over some toothpaste. Just like certain sounds, certain smells make us remember. You find a shirt that belongs to your girl/boyfriend after they’ve left and you bury your face in it as if to bring them closer, to have them there with you. You smell something good in the oven and suddenly you are six years old and in your mother’s kitchen and she’s baking your birthday cake. Again, Grenouille’s case is over the top, especially since I think it depends on the individual on what smells good to them, so how can a growd have a collective reaction to a certain scent? When I pause to think, I realise that there are certain scents that everyone agrees are good, like babies and puppies. But perhaps us real people can control ourselves from the kinds of reations they had in the book, at least I sincerily hope so.

– Jatta –


About jattavuorinen

Second year English literature student from Norwich, UK.
This entry was posted in December 2014 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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