Perfumer gives her favourite novels scents and sensibility
Thursday 16 September 2004
Proust'S Madeleine is one of the most famous cakes in literature, transporting the narrator Marcel to his childhood.
But while most readers of Remembrance of Things Pastjust imagine its smell, Laura Tonatto, an Italian perfumer, has gone one step further, creating a scent for the scene.
The perfume is one of five created by Ms Tonatto to accompany scenes from her favourite novels, including works by Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert, which are on display at a London bookshop.
Ms Tonatto said she was struck by the description of the sensory power of smell in Proust's work when she first read it as a teenager.
She said: "I read Proust when I was 16 and it was very important to me. When I re-read it, it brings back strong memories of my grandmother preparing tea and cakes in the same way as when the narrator tastes the Madeleine, he is transported back to his childhood."
Ms Tonatto, who has made fragrances for 20 years and is an expert in historical perfumes, created a deep vanilla scent to accompany the extract from the novel. The scene has the narrator reflecting: "Suddenly the memory appeared inside me. The taste was that of the piece of madeleine which Aunt Leonie offered me on Sunday mornings in Combray."
Ms Tonatto added: "The moment is pivotal to the whole novel, which is all about memory and sensation. I wanted to create a perfume that would suggest the buttery richness of the pastry that he tastes, sweetened with vanilla, with an undertone of tea."
Ms Tonatto, who is based in Turin and whose clients include Giorgio Armani, was inspired as a youngster when she would constantly imagine the smells to accompany books she read.
She said: "I have always read a lot and have a huge collection of books. Long before I became a perfumer, smell was important to me. I would read a book and be so overwhelmed by the aromas described. Some books create such a strong reaction for me that if I hear the title mentioned, I will automatically smell it."
Readers will be able to read the relevant extract from the book before inhaling its accompanying smell. Other pieces include "violets that woke the memory of dead romances" from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. The sweet smell is described by its creator as "heady and intoxicating", evoking "dead romances".
The perfume created for Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is inspired by the frustrated heroine's delight in sniffing the viscount's cigar case.
But there should be a warning attached to the perfume accompanying the French novelist Patrick Suskind's Perfume, in which the author details the stinks of 18th-century Paris.
Ms Tonatto said: "The smell I've created for this passage, I'll admit, is a particularly unpleasant odour with hints of a mustiness and fishy aroma. I don't think there'll be much demand for this."
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