Seamlessly flitting from piercingly personal sadness to wry moments of dark comedy, Claudel’s text is a masterfully woven patchwork of recollections, desires, and regrets all themed around his sense of smell and the olfactory memories the author has collected over his life. Whilst some perfume materials are included in his nose’s index (such as acacia, cinnamon, and hay), what is perhaps surprising is that the notes Claudel records on objects and ideas that have no obvious specific smell at all (such as waking up, old age, travels) are so evocatively rendered with scent in mind. It is as if the first person of the text is using their nose in an equally precise and emotionally intelligent way as would an eye to ‘read between the lines’ of human interaction and to make sense of the world around them.
Parfums: A Catalogue of Remembered Smells, Philippe Claudel, translated by Euan Camero, MacLehose Pres , 2014, 173 pages, £8.99
This review has been published in Nez, the olfactory magazine – #04 – Art and Perfume. This issue is available on www.nez-editions.us for North America and on the Auparfum Shop for other countries.