The four posts I wrote in the weekend were maybe a surprise because the literary approach, where reality and fiction were mixed, was certainly not very familiar with my style. I thought it was a more funny way to present a selection of real facts because often a serious tone "ex cathedra" might be considered too pretentious. After all, the Bram Stoker 2012 Awards took place on march 31, Descartes' birthday! But the true reason behind this small writing experiment was the fact that I became a character in a new book about perfumes - The Perfume Lover - a personal story of scent by French author Denyse Beaulieu.
I met Denyse 5 years ago, before she started her blog. Today her "duende" became reality and the "dominus" spirit hauting every perfume bottle became the "dueño" (master). It was released in our world. She has recently published a magnificent story about perfumes and her dream perfume is now presented by Artisan Parfumeur. She is one of my best students, though my "school" has not the appearance of any formal institution.
We met on the same place where I enjoy my coffee in Paris watching the people entering "La Comédie Française" and the famous characters walking through the arcades of Palais Royal, the magnificent Valois building where Serge Lutens, the scent wizard, had its perfume shop. We met under the auspices of a forgotten masterpiece she discovered - Iris Gris by Jacques Fath. Her vintage version, I later remade for myself, is better than the perfume reconstructed by the Osmothèque in Versailles.
Since then, we've been seeing each other many times, usually it is "domingo" (Sunday), because we share the same area in Paris. In fact, she lives at the angle of the street where a pharmacist worked 100 years ago, he published an important perfume book still in use by those who buy old formulae books. I presented her many raw materials, ingredients, old perfumes from my collection, I advised her on vintage purchases, I shared my experience from my perfume school.
When I graduated ISIPCA there was not a single perfumer in Paris who wanted to take me for what is called "stage" or "apprenticeship". From the 50+ letters I wrote to everybody in Paris all answers were negative. For instance, Firmenich said that I do not have the right age for them to work as a perfumer (which is rather strange because a perfumer can change his appearance at will, as Count Saint Germain would suggest). Since I am a generous nature I thought that many of the things I knew better than others should be shared with the rest of the world. Denyse has been very gifted and I helped her when she set her perfume training in London. She has a real talent and communication skills with young students.
Before her book, The Perfume Lover, we had another project or idea which obviously did not work because things in France are complicated and impossible. It is futile for us to defend the interests of a country whose name is not on our passport. But I was extremely happy when she finally succeeded to publish her book in UK, "The Perfume Lover", a real story about perfume and an expression of her literary talent. My nature is more objective and oriented towards history and science. If "The Perfume" from Süskind is a metaphor and a work of fiction, the "Perfume Lover" is the real account of the often untold stories behind any great creation. Love, passion, memories, art, criticism and reflection - the objective nature of the perfume captured by the subjective lenses of those who live it.
Denyse Beaulieu is also teaching at London College of Fashion where she does an excellent work which is impossible in Paris but will soon spread all over Europe in other countries more open for perfume collaborations. After all, France is only a temporary host for the perfume industry, its Frenchness is explained in the book and its decline is only a matter of years (read also Jean Claude Ellena about l'impérialisme olfactif de la France in Le Monde)
In The Perfume Lover, I guide Denyse in chapter 18, after Serge Lutens has condemned her with a perfume, in the world of "white flowers", creatures of the night with dark, potent and vibrating odors haunted by bats and moths, who by the way are responsible for the pollination of these flowers.
What else is the perfume if not the sign of transformation? The trail in the maze of darkness which transforms the dream in reality, after you whispered the invocatio.
"What if I took you to Seville for Easter, then?"
As the years passed and she began working on this book, I often told her "you will become a different woman". The perfume is future memory, she replied quite often. But the nature of this work, whether it is expressed in the literature or in the real experience of the a scent is unknown to us.
"El Duende", the name of a character in the book, is the spirit of evocation which characterizes an artistic performance that is particularly expressive and, as portrayed by Garcia Lorca, it is a demonic earth spirit helping the artist see the limitations of intelligence, to a higher degree than the muse. His arrival means a radical change like a miracle. The perfume too, is capable of Duende because it emerges with power from the human body pointing directly to the soul.
"Seville à l'aube", the perfume imagined by star-perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour for Denyse Beaulieu and now sold by Artisan Parfumeur, is the expression of this fleeting moment from Seville - the orange blossoms in bloom during a procession with incense. One might call this special moment "La Fuite des Heures" as Balenciaga said with his perfume, the gift Denyse made me when we first met in Paris to speak about perfumes.
The book is a wonderful expression about how one's life becomes legend through the work of a perfume giving both a real account of the events and one of its most poetic interpretation. There are many ways to teach or pass a message from the shadow of a bottle to the light of one's heart, but literature has always been one of the best way. When Denyse Beaulieu and Bertrand Duchaufour arrive at the vial 128, the perfume whose development started at chapter 8 with the code name "Séville Semaine Sainte", is ready to breathe and go out in the world. The dream of a forbidden presence becomes real and from the shadow emerges the scent of a new universe.
This miracle is not the book itself, neither the perfume, but something else you will notice in the future. If auto-biography is the technique employed by the author in the rich narrative texture, her real character and companion is "The Perfume" whose secrets are intermingled with reality and fiction. She gives a precise account of its nature, both emotionally and very technical, following the development of the creation imagined by Bertrand Duchaufour. I would say she is both the muse and the client of a special essence she dreamt when she opened one day a perfume bottle - its content is symbolicaly the "Spiritus Familiaris" of the Grimm brothers. How the perfume is made, how it is constructed, preserved, taught, sold, protected, the entire mechanism of the modern perfume industry is presented with delicacy and charm inside this book. It is also the passion and innocence of the author who discovers month after month more amazing things from the infinity of the perfume universe. She's constantly asking for more in an aesthetic addiction which knows no cure. Perfume is like Love.
As I meet with Denyse usually on Sunday to smell perfumes or rare findings, I often came with very old XIXth century perfumes from my collection because I believe that a writer should nourish his spirit with the scents of those he admires and their shadow. The perfume of Marquis de Sade she wrote about in her previous book? It survived in a XIXth century perfume I presented on this blog. Because Denyse studied literature at Sorbonne I thought it was a good technique to "connect", even for several minutes in a modest way, with the air of those glorious years (technique I discovered at Wagner), without revealing her that some of my bottles belonged to some notorious estates.
If the The Perfume Lover is an excellent reading, it is also because Denyse was surrounded by very good perfumes, as she enjoys only the most exquisite things in life like any Parisian woman who made her life an art performance with "duende".
Her personal perfume she worked with Bertrand Duchaufor for a long time, studying the evolution of every note and idea through 128 trials, is also the reflection of another hidden desire called Embrujo de Sevilla. One Sunday, looking into the photos of Myrurgia glorious perfumes created before WWII (she published an article in September 2008) we both made a secret wish in our heart - to smell all of them. It is not a secret today that foreign masterpieces of the perfume history cannot be found in Paris, the Osmothèque is devoted to the glory of French houses and preserve only those creations which can be remade when the original formula is available. That's why I thought bringing to live some forgotten Russian creations in Paris. But one day, all those orphan scents will be all housed in my Museum along with many other dreams of any perfume lover which are not possible today in Paris.
The book presents with accuracy many aspects of the perfume industry and its history. I helped her to avoid any possible mistake. After reading the book there is still one question - Who is the Perfume Lover?
An old acquaintance from the past, once living in Seville and surrounded by a garden of perfumes? A perfumer who left the amazing city to follow his path? A forgotten perfume house whose masterpieces are to be re-discovered?
Everybody who has ever entered the perfume universe follows the paths of the Book in any of its possible combinations because without perfume and scent there is no life.
The book is a perfect and correct account of the perfume industry where the author is taking a lot of care to sculpt the details, it is also the story of an initiation. The perfume is a Cathedral, it has the infinity of the space, people react to it in an almost religious way. It is also a Cathedral of knowledge which links past and future taking the reader into its maze like the pilgrim who discovers the maze of a gothic cathedral.
If The Perfume Lover concludes with the presentation of the perfume "Seville à l'aube", a creation of Bertrand Duchaufour for Denyse Beaulieu, now sold by Artisan Parfumeur, the story doesn't really end. After all, the true nature of the perfume is not inside the bottle, but outside, when it is released into the world and is adopted by those who can share their love.
As you have already noticed, I did not unveil very much from the book itself. It is because I consider that every perfume lover should buy, at least two of it, one to read, the other as a present for Easter, and every niche brand who has ever been presented on her blog or mine should buy at least 4 books. As you know, my blog and her blog where we have extensively shared many things about the art of perfume are free. It is a small form of gratitude for the thousands of pages written and a form of gratitude for the support we brought to the universe of perfumes. Texts don't write themselves by magic! In real life you plant a tree, in the world of fiction you buy a book and I have always considered that authors must be supported because without imagination, passion and intelligence an industry cannot live.
One might ask what is a perfume, after all? It is a link between reality and fiction like the picture showed on the cover of Denyse Beaulieu's book portraying "Marie Madeleine", the woman who once kept the most precious vial of perfume in her hands. Do not try to search the nature of a scent only through the chemistry like modern companies do. Try also the imaginary of cultures where every plant and every scent have left their traces, but explore them with the instruments of Reason. Scent is the shadow of the Word and I learnt the most important things not in the perfume books but exploring mythology and literature where the scent becomes the reflection of author's inner thoughts. Like Plato's World of Ideas, perfumes have their own existence.
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art