I've been reading Paris novels with lots of smells. I just recently finished Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys. According to Wikipedia, font of all accuracy, "the book initially sold poorly" because "critics thought it well-written, but too depressing." It is very sad indeed, but also very funny. Here's a striking passage that I dog-eared:
The curtains are thin, and when they are drawn the light comes through softly. There are flowers on the windowsill and I can see their shadows on the curtains. The child downstairs is screaming.
There is a wind, and the flowers on the windowsill, and their shadows on the curtains, are waving. Like swans dipping their beaks in water. Like the incalculable raising its head, uselessly and wildly, for one moment before it sinks down, beaten, into the darkness. Like skulls on long, thin necks. Plunging wildly when the wind blows, to the end of the curtain, which is their nothingness. Distorting themselves as they plunge.
The musty smell, the bugs, the loneliness, this room, which is part of the street outside — this is all I want from life.
This bit of prose is all I want from poetry!
Thinking it would make good travel reading, I just started "international bestseller" Perfume by Patrick Suskind ("originally published in German as Das Parfum"). It opens with a delightful passage about the overwhelming stink of civilization in the mid-1700's:
In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber pots. The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master's wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter. For in the eighteenth century there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition, and so there was no human activity, either constructive or destructive, no manifestation of germinating or decaying life that was not accompanied by stench.
Have you read or smelled anything interesting lately?