The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for hating your nose

If you have a challenging honker, bury it in Patrick Süskind's ode to the greatest nose in fiction, that of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Ailment: Hating your nose

Cure: Perfume by Patrick Süskind

All noses are pretty weird if you gaze at them long enough. And whether you have a tiny, upturned ski-jump of a nose or a huge, hooked outcrop, it's relatively easy to develop a negative feeling for your nasal orifice, sitting slap-bang as it does in the middle of your face, impervious to exercise and impossible to hide beneath a hat.

Most of us need only compare our nose to other people's to see that ours is no better or worse than most. But if you really do have a challenging honker, bury it in Patrick Süskind's ode to the greatest nose in fiction, that of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Your nose may not be your most winning feature, but an educated nose can enrich your life and, eventually, earn you love.

Smells reign supreme in this rapturous novel. For in 18th-century Paris, the streets heave with a noxious mix of urine, rotting melon and disease. Here, on the hottest day of the year, his mother squatting among the guts of descaled fish, the young Grenouille is born – and immediately given away. For this sinister baby has no smell of his own, and his own puggish nose quivers perpetually as if able to sniff out one's private thoughts.

Grenouille knows he has the "best nose in Paris", and it gets him an audience with one of Paris's top perfumers, to whom he rapidly becomes indispensable. But it's also a dreadful curse: catching the sweet whiff of a virgin from half a mile away – nut oil, apricot blossom – he cannot rest until he has devoured the scent completely.

Of course you will never use your sense of smell for such despicable ends; but Grenouille's story will remind you that your nose isn't just for display purposes. Encourage it to revel in the aromas around you – from the lemongrass in your soup to the jasmine at your window – and you'll learn to love your sniffer in a whole new way.

thenovelcure.com

Comments