Like the vampires who, having no substance, are obliged to drink the blood of humans in order to subsist, and are not reflected in mirrors, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, sociopathic murderer of Perfume by Patrick Süskind, is a being without substance, without presence, because he has no smell.
From the cradle, this infirmity sets him apart from his fellows: abandoned at birth by his mother on a pile of rubbish, in the Halles market, “The most smelly place in the kingdom”, he is rejected by his nurse, who suspects this “bastard” – still a hybrid – of being “Possessed by the devil”, because he “Smells nothing, less than cold air”. Without the olfactory identity proper to each human, small, hunchbacked, ugly, he is devoid of personality; everywhere it goes unnoticed. More seriously, he is also void of any empathy, any feeling or consideration for others, as if he cannot identify with them.
But in return, he has a unique gift, which brings him closer to the beast than to man: if he has no smell of his own, he is able to smell all the others, better than a bloodhound. , miles away. He therefore becomes an apprentice-perfumer and completes his break with humanity by pursuing his obsession: killing seven young girls in bloom to capture the fragrance, from which he draws a truly bewitching scent, which suddenly makes him desirable, and even irresistible.
In the end, Grenouille’s invention brings to light all the hypocrisy and bestiality of men who do not see him as a monster until, arrested for his crimes, he is designated as such, exposed in public. – in Latin, the term monster comes from the verb show which means “to show, to designate”.
A few drops of his fragrant masterpiece will suffice for him to be acquitted and trigger a general orgy, thus breaking, by appealing to the most primitive sense of those who wanted to quarter it, the very superficial varnish of their morality. and their conscience. The monster ends up devoured alive by those who suddenly adore him like a supernatural being, all wanting to absorb a part of his holiness, all of them, in turn, monsters; but all convinced of having acted out of love.
Tomorrow : the unconscious and Freddy Krueger