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In what I read as a typical example of literary postmodernism, Perfume is a projection of concerns with personal identity and literary persona onto the themes and characters of the novel. Set in 18th century France, Perfume tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a physically and emotionally abused orphan whose supernatural sense of smell guides him in a perverse search for the lost origin of his identity. A genius of odors, Grenouille himself lacks a personal odor, signifying an absence of individual identity.
As he discovers his olfactory virtuosity, Grenouille becomes increasingly obsessed with inventing new fragrances, particularly his own, which he attempts to create artificially by extracting and blending the corporeal scents of young virginal women he murders. Grenouille’s great hope is to create an ideal perfume that will give him the magical essence of identity. Despite his hatred of fellow humans, the mad perfumer is driven by a…
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