The Pigeon by Patrick Süskind (Translated by John E Woods) - review by Sophia Watson

Sophia Watson

He Nearly Goes Mad

The Pigeon


Hamish Hamilton 77pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Sometimes I wonder why publishers bother to bring out anything as short as this book, especially when the cost will surely drive most buyers away. But The Pigeon answers my question. It would have been an act of pure wickedness not to publish this, which is if anything even better than Süskind’s last work, Perfume.

Where Perfume was a flight of imaginative genius, at times disgusting, but always completely enthralling, The Pigeon is much quieter and more mundane. It tells the story of one day in the life of Jonathan Noel, a guard at a bank. Jonathan’s life up until the day of the pigeon is described in a few pages, but is very important to his reactions on the day he nearly goes mad. A child in the war, his parents were taken away to a camp although he and his sister were saved and sent to stay with an uncle far away. He did his military service for three years and came back to be told to marry a local girl. Four months later the girl gave birth to a baby and not long after that bolted with another man.

Noel’s daily life is described in minute detail: the squalid chambre de bonne which he is buying in instalments, his fanatical neatness, his total lack of communication with other people. ‘No one in the world took notice of Jonathan as often and precisely as Madame Rocard’ the concierge (they never

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