Patrick Süskind at 70

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The history of the emergent field of scent culture has not been written yet. We are still in the midst of creating and shaping this new field. In terms of books that made all this possible very few books stand out.

Patrick Süskind’s novel “The perfume” has been a point of reference in innumerable talks, studies & workshops: How often do I receive questions about this novel when discussing our empirical research! In fact, numerous quotes from the novel have been very effective in anchoring the significance of scent for culture & society.

Here are a few favorites I often refer to:

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.

He had preserved the best part of her and made it his own: the principle of her scent.

He had preserved the best part of her and made it his own: the principle of her scent.

And an ode to the egalitarian value of smell:

The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master’s wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter. For in the eighteenth century there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition, and so there was no human activity, either constructive or destructive, no manifestation of germinating or decaying life that was not accompanied by stench.

From a perfumer’s point of view Christophe Laudamiel calls Süskind’s book “an allegory of Perfumery”. Moreover it educational value is “a gift for a perfumer, fallen out of the sky”.

Despite the prominence of his work, the author is always absent! There are very few photographs, interviews etc. One popular photograph can be found here. What a fascinating contrast! Today Patrick Süskind celebrates his 70th birthday.

If I had a chance to nominate a recicpient for the Contribution to Scent Culture at the Art & Olfaction Awards Patrick Süskind would be my candidate!

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Reference: Laudamiel, C., Hornetz, C., Braja, M., & Patel, S. (2008). From Virginia Education to Real Education. In P. Kraft & Royal Society of Chemistry (Great Britain);Society of Chemical Industry (Great Britain) (Eds.), Current topics in flavor and fragrance research (pp. 329–339). Chichester: Wiley-VCH, p. 339.

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