Suzanne's Perfume Journal

“Their bodies had met in perfumes, in sweat, frantic to get under that thin film with a tongue or tooth, as if they each could grip character there and during love pull it right off the body of the other.

    “Now there is no talcum on her arm, no rose water on her thigh.”

This week, as I try to recover from a little too much Christmas, I leave you with these beautiful quotes, pertaining to perfume and scent, from Michael Ondaatje's most sensuous novel, The English Patient, and these equally arresting images from the film of the same name.  Enjoy!

Perfume Quotes from The English Patient

Also from Chapter 1, Hana, the English patient's nurse, remembers her father who has died fighting in the war:

The following quote is from Chapter 1, in which 'the English patient' recalls how he "fell burning into the desert" from an airplane and was rescued by Bedouin tribesmen who took him to a Bedouin healer, who is described below:

January 15, 2008: 

“He was known to everyone along the camel route from the Sudan north to Giza, the Forty Days Road. He met the caravans, traded spice and liquid, and moved between oases and water camps. He walked through sandstorms with this coat of bottles, his ears plugged with two other small corks so he seemed a vessel to himself, this merchant doctor, this king of oils and perfumes and panaceas, this baptist. He would enter a camp and set up the curtain of bottles in front of whoever was sick.

    “He crouched by the burned man. He made a skin cup with the soles of his feet and leaned back to pluck, without even looking, certain bottles. With the uncorking of each tiny bottle the perfumes fell out. There was an odour of the sea. The smell of rust. Indigo. Ink. River-mud arrow-wood formaldehyde paraffin ether. The tide of airs chaotic. There were screams of camels in the distance as they picked up the scents. He began to rub green-black paste onto the rib cage. It was ground peacock bone, bartered for in a medina to the west or south—the most potent healer of skin.”


All quotations above are from the novel, The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, copyright 1992.

Images are from the 1996 film adaptation of The English Patient, directed by Anthony Minghella and distributed by Miramax Films. The film featured actors Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas (top image) and Juliette Binoche (bottom image).​

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“Her father had taught her about hands. About a dog’s paws. Whenever her father was alone with a dog in the house he would lean over and smell the skin at the base of its paw. This, he would say, as if coming away from a brandy snifter, is the greatest smell in the world! A bouquet! Great rumours of travel! She would pretend disgust, but the dog’s paw was a wonder: the smell of it never suggested dirt. It’s a cathedral! her father had said, so-and-so’s garden, that field of grasses, a walk through cyclamen—a concentration of hints of all the paths the animal had taken during the day.”