Книга Perfume. The story of a murderer. Содержание - Eight
He was not particular about it. He did not differentiate between what is commonly considered a good and a bad smell, not yet. He was greedy. The goal of the hunt was simply to possess everything the world could offer in the way of odors, and his only condition was that the odors be new ones. The smell of a sweating horse meant just as much to him as the tender green bouquet of a bursting rosebud, the acrid stench of a bug was no less worthy than the aroma rising from a larded veal roast in an aristocrat’s kitchen. He devoured everything, everything, sucking it up into him. But there were no aesthetic principles governing the olfactory kitchen of his imagination, where he was forever synthesizing and concocting new aromatic combinations. He fashioned grotes-queries, only to destroy them again immediately, like a child playing with blocks-inventive and destructive, with no apparent norms for his creativity.
ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1753, the anniversary of the king’s coronation, the city of Paris set off fireworks at the Pont-Royal. The display was not as spectacular as the fireworks celebrating the king’s marriage, or as the legendary fireworks in honor of the dauphin’s birth, but it was impressive nevertheless. They had mounted golden sunwheeis on the masts of the ships. From the bridge itself so-called fire bulls spewed showers of burning stars into the river. And while from every side came the deafening roar of petards exploding and of firecrackers skipping across the cobblestones, rockets rose into the sky and painted white lilies against the black firmament. Thronging the bridge and the quays along both banks of the river, a crowd of many thousands accompanied the spectacle with ah’s and oh’s and even some “long live” ‘s-although the king had ascended his throne more than thirty-eight years before and the high point of his popularity was Song since behind him. Fireworks can do that.
Grenouille stood silent in the shadow of the Pavilion de Flore, across from the Pont-Neuf on the right bank. He did not stir a finger to applaud, did not even look up at the ascending rockets. He had come in hopes of getting a whiff of something new, but it soon became apparent that fireworks had nothing to offer in the way of odors. For all their extravagant variety as they glittered and gushed and crashed and whistled, they left behind a very monotonous mixture of smells: sulfur, oil, and saltpeter.
He was just about to leave this dreary exhibition and head homewards along the gallery of the Louvre when the wind brought him something, a tiny, hardly noticeable something, a crumb, an atom of scent; no, even less than that: it was more the premonition of a scent than the scent itself-and at the same time it was definitely a premonition of something he had never smelled before. He backed up against the wall, closed his eyes, and flared his nostrils. The scent was so exceptionally delicate and fine that he could not hold on to it; it continually eluded his perception, was masked by the powder smoke of the petards, blocked by the exudations of the crowd, fragmented and crushed by the thousands of other city odors. But then, suddenly, it was there again, a mere shred, the whiff of a magnificent premonition for only a second… and it vanished at once. Grenouille suffered agonies. For the first time, it was not just that his greedy nature was offended, but his very heart ached. He had the prescience of something extraordinary-this scent was the key for ordering all odors, one could understand nothing about odors if one did not understand this one scent, and his whole life would be bungled, if he, Grenouille, did not succeed in possessing it. He had to have it, not simply in order to possess it, but for his heart to be at peace.
He was almost sick with excitement. He had not yet even figured out what direction the scent was coming from. Sometimes there were intervals of several minutes before a shred was again wafted his way, and each time he was overcome by the horrible anxiety that he had lost it forever. He was finally rescued by a desperate conviction that the scent was coming from the other bank of the river, from somewhere to the southeast.
He moved away from the wall of the Pavilion de Flore, dived into the crowd, and made his way across the bridge. Every few strides he would stop and stand on tiptoe in order to take a sniff from above people’s heads, at first smelling nothing for pure excitement; then finally there was something, he smelled the scent, stronger than before, knew that he was on the right track, dived in again, burrowed through the throng of gapers and pyrotechnicians unremittingly setting torch to their rocket fuses, lost the scent in the acrid smoke of the powder, panicked, shoved and jostled his way through and burrowed onward, and after countless minutes reached the far bank, the Hotel de Mailly, the Quai Malaquest, the entrance to the rue de Seine,…
Here he stopped, gathering his forces, and smelled. He had it. He had hold of it tight. The odor came rolling down the rue de Seine like a ribbon, unmistakably clear, and yet as before very delicate and very fine. Grenouille felt his heart pounding, and he knew that it was not the exertion of running that had set it pounding, but rather his excited helplessness in the presence of this scent. He tried to recall something comparable, but had to discard all comparisons. This scent had a freshness, but not the freshness of limes or pomegranates, not the freshness of myrrh or cinnamon bark or curly mint or birch or camphor or pine needles, nor that of a May rain or a frosty wind or of well water… and at the same time it had warmth, but not as bergamot, cypress, or musk has, or jasmine or daffodils, not as rosewood has or iris… This scent was a blend of both, of evanescence and substance, not a blend, but a unity, although slight and frail as well, and yet solid and sustaining, like a piece of thin, shimmering silk… and yet again not like silk, but like pastry soaked in honeysweet milk-and try as he would he couldn’t fit those two together: milk and silk! This scent was inconceivable, indescribable, could not be categorized in any way-it really ought not to exist at all. And yet there it was as plain and splendid as day. Grenouille followed it, his fearful heart pounding, for he suspected that it was not he who followed the scent, but the scent that had captured him and was drawing him irresistibly to it.
He walked up the rue de Seine. No one was on the street. The houses stood empty and still. The people were down by the river watching the fireworks. No hectic odor of humans disturbed him, no biting stench of gunpowder. The street smelled of its usual smells: water, feces, rats, and vegetable matter. But above it hovered the ribbon, delicate and clear, leading Grenouille on. After a few steps, what little light the night afforded was swallowed by the tall buildings, and Grenouille walked on in darkness. He did not need to see. The scent led him firmly.
Fifty yards farther, he turned off to the right up the rue des Marais, a narrow alley hardly a span wide and darker still-if that was possible. Strangely enough, the scent was not much stronger. It was only purer, and in its augmented purity, it took on an even greater power of attraction. Grenouille walked with no will of his own. At one point, the scent pulled him strongly to the right, straight through what seemed to be a wall. A low entryway opened up, leading into a back courtyard. Grenouille moved along the passage like a somnambulist, moved across the courtyard, turned a corner, entered a second, smaller courtyard, and here finally there was light-a space of only a few square feet. A wooden roof hung out from the wall. Beneath it, a table, a candle stuck atop it. A girl was sitting at the table cleaning yellow plums. With her left hand, she took the fruit from a basket, stemmed and pitted it with a knife, and dropped it into a bucket. She might have been thirteen, fourteen years old. Gre-nouille stood still. He recognized at once the source of the scent that he had followed from half a mile away on the other bank of the river: not this squalid courtyard, not the plums. The source was the girl.