In Patrick Süskind’s sensual, disturbing novel PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, set in eighteenth-century France, a young man is born with a remarkable sense of smell. He becomes a perfumer, and kills young women to preserve their intoxicating scent. The book was translated from German by John E. Woods and published in 1986.
PERFUME is one of the most successful German novels of the post-war period. It was originally published in serial form by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, then revised and reissued as a book. It has been translated into forty-five languages, was a SPIEGEL bestseller for nine years, and has sold more than 15 million copies.
Patrick Süskind lives as a recluse, but has collaborated with the director Helmut Dietl on a number of projects, including the script for Dietl’s hit film ROSSINI. The characters in this satire on the late 80s/early 90s Munich jet-set include a well-known director and producer who try to persuade a shy and reluctant author to sell the movie rights to his bestselling novel. The film of Süskind’s PERFUME was finally made by Tom Tykwer and released more than twenty years after the book was published.
The translator, John E. Woods, was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for PERFUME in 1987 – his second win, after EVENING EDGED IN GOLD by Arno Schmidt in 1981. Woods has also translated all the major novels of Thomas Mann, a feat comparable to retranslating Proust. In 1996, he won the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, for not one book but two – Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN and Schmidt’s NOBODADDY’S CHILDREN. He has also been awarded the prestigious Goethe Medal.