Perfume Summary

  • Last updated on July 23, 2023
Title: Perfume
Author: Patrick Süskind
Publication Date: 1985
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Length: 255 pages


- Author: Patrick Süskind
- Title: Perfume
- Publication Date: 1985
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Page Length: 255 pages (approx.)

Perfume, a critically acclaimed novel written by Patrick Süskind, takes readers on a captivating journey through 18th century France, delving into the mysterious world of scents and its profound impact on human experience. The story centers around Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man born with an astonishingly refined sense of smell, who embarks on a relentless pursuit to create the ultimate perfume.

In the darkest corners of 18th century Paris, a child is born among fish carcasses and filth, abandoned by his mother. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, devoid of any human scent but endowed with an extraordinary olfactory ability, sets foot into a world where his peculiar gift serves as both a curse and a blessing.

Part 1 - The Perfumer's Apprenticeship:
As Grenouille grows older under various caretakers, his obsession with smells intensifies. At the age of eight, he becomes an apprentice to a tanner, Grimal, where the overpowering stench surrounding him drives Grenouille into a blind rage. The twisted fate eventually leads him to the care of Madame Gaillard, who voices concerns about his abnormal lack of scent. Placed under the guidance of Baldini, a renowned perfumer, Grenouille masters the art of extracting and blending scents. However, his insatiable quest for creating an extraordinary fragrance still lingers, instigated by his encounter with a young, vibrant girl whose scent mesmerizes him.

Part 2 - The Journeyman:
Fueled by his desire to capture and preserve the aromas that elicit such intense emotions, Grenouille abandons his apprenticeship and ventures into the wider world. He finds himself amidst the bustling city of Grasse, known for its esteemed perfume industry. Here, Grenouille encounters a group of tanners who openly engage in his passion for scents. Recruited by them, Grenouille begins his botanical exploration, seeking divine fragrances in the natural world. During his expeditions, he discovers a hidden realm of extraordinary scents in the heart of Provence.

Part 3 - The Perfume Mass:
Returning to Grasse, Grenouille continues his ambitious pursuit, aided by an incredible method for distillation. Obsessed with capturing the aroma of perfect beauty, he resorts to unspeakable means, resulting in a series of grisly murders. By extracting the purest odor of his victims, Grenouille endeavors to create his ultimate perfume. However, his audacious actions draw the attention of the authorities, leading to his capture and subsequent trial.

Part 4 - The Elixirs:
On the day of his execution, Grenouille astounds the crowd by wearing his self-made perfume, which renders him irresistible to those around him. In the midst of chaos, the crowd surrenders to his mesmerizing scent, offering him unconditional adoration. Grenouille's final act of releasing the scent ultimately leads to his demise.

Perfume explores several dominant themes that resonate throughout the novel, shedding light on the human condition. It delves into the nature of obsession, as Grenouille's relentless pursuit of capturing the perfect scent drives him to commit unthinkable acts. The novel also examines the concepts of beauty and ugliness, highlighting the powerful influence that olfactory senses possess and suggesting that appearances can be deceptive. Additionally, Perfume delves into the power dynamics between those who possess alluring scents and those who are devoid of it, presenting a nuanced exploration of societal perception and identity.


Süskind's Perfume continues to captivate readers with its vivid descriptions, intricate plot, and thought-provoking themes. By delving into the depths of human desires and their consequences, the novel prompts readers to contemplate the complex interplay between nature and nurture, the power of scent, and the potential darkness that resides within. Perfume serves as an engaging literary work that challenges norms and forces readers to reflect on the intricacies of human existence and the profound influence of the senses.

Categories: Books