July 18, 1988 12:00 PM

by Patrick Süskind

Süskind’s 1986 novel, Perfume, carried off a tough conceit, expanding the notion of a murderer with an amazing sense of smell into a full, rich book. In this case, however, he has taken the case of a simple bird and laid a big fat egg. The book’s saving grace is that it is just 112 pages long, though that leaves about 111½ pages too many. It is the story of a Paris bank guard who is in his 50s and lives alone. One day as he is about to leave his tiny room, he sees a pigeon in the hall and is so traumatized he has a terrible time even opening the door again. He finally manages to go to work, taking a suitcase so he can move to a hotel. Then comes the dramatic highlight: He tears his trousers and tries to get them sewn. This may be an extended joke along the lines of the horror movie Night of the Lepus, in which bunnies turn into rampaging monsters. In this case, though, there’s nothing as interesting as monster bunnies or even anyone resembling Janet Leigh. Let’s be generous: Assume that since Süskind writes in German, something—everything, actually—was lost in the translation. (Knopf, $14.95)

You May Like