Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels

Karen Runge is an author and visual artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of the short story collection Seven Sins and the novel Seeing Double. One of her five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels:

“And suddenly solitude fell across his heart like a dusty reflection. He closed his eyes. The dark doors within him opened and he entered. The next performance in the theater of Grenouille’s soul was beginning.”

This is a story about a serial killer such as it has never been told before. What’s so magic about it is that the protagonist is utterly despicable, but… we like him? Despite his sad beginnings, he has exactly zero redeeming features—and yet… and yet… we admire him? Alright, we don’t like him—but we root for him. We don’t understand him—but we feel for him. It’s like falling in love with a narcissist. He makes us furious and desperate and sometimes downright disgusted, but we follow him around like a tortured puppy anyway.

I still cannot figure how Süskind got that right.

Grenouille is a hideous little creature with an extraordinarily refined sense of smell. There is no beauty in his world except for that gifted by fragrance, which he pursues heartlessly, almost in direct contrast to the beauty of the scents themselves. There is nothing admirable in him, except for his keen intelligence (he’s no fool) and this remarkable gift of his. When he discovers a way to capture the scent of human, feminine beauty, he goes from sociopath to psychopath, and there are no limits to what he’ll do to achieve his goal: create the greatest perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t embarrass myself by trying to pick this apart any further. It’s just too layered, too intense, too intricate. This novel stands alone, and has to be experienced first-hand by the reader.

Kudos to the translator. It can’t have been easy, working with words as full and dense as this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Perfume is among Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue