Hoffmann's Das Fräulein von Scuderi and Süskind's Das Parfum: Elements of Homage in a Postmodernist Parody of a Romantic Artist Story

by R. G. Whitinger, M. Herzog
Hoffmann's Das Fräulein von Scuderi and Süskind's Das Parfum: Elements of Homage in a Postmodernist Parody of a Romantic Artist Story
R. G. Whitinger, M. Herzog
The German Quarterly
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M. HERZOG University of Alberta

Hoffmann9sDas Fraulein von Scuderi and Siiskind's
Das Parfum: Elements of Homage in a Postmodernist
Parody of a Romantic Artist Story

Simply by portraying a gifted artist on the loose as a serial killer in bygone France, Patricksuskind's novel Das Parfum (1985) recalls E.T.A. Hoffinann's story Das Fraulein von Scuderi (1818). Yet critics have noted similarities without analyzing them in detail (cf. von Matt; Reich-Ranicki, Pokern; Ryan; Jacobson). Closer investiga- tion of the ties between the two works con- tributes to the understanding of each and defends both authors against misconcep- tions that have emerged in the critical discourse on Suskind's work.

Many critics have charged that Suskind has merely cobbled together a derivative pastiche without any rationale behind his evocation of earlier works and styles, much less any constructive parodic relationship (cf. Hopfner; Fischer, Schutte; Hage; Lucht; Adams; Nutt; Ortheil). They consign it to a negative category of "diffuse" and "modish" postmodernism (6:Welsch 2) that indulges "without principle" in "random cannibaliza- tion of all the styles of the past" (Jameson 6546).l Against these positions, we shall argue that Suskind's parodic interaction with Hoffmann's romanticism involves a good measure of that homage which critics have attached to the idea of parody as a 'productive-creative approach to tradition" (Siegmund-Schultze 73) that 'intends no disrespect, while it does signal ironic differ- ence" (Hutcheon, "Modern Parody and Bakhtin" 91)' that goes beyond the 'mock- ery" traditionally associated with parody to echo the past with a combination of "defer- ence" and "irony" (Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism 3435; cf. Portoghesi 28; Ryan 396-97). It will support recent de- fenses of the "positive strategy" in Suskind's use of other texts (Ryan 396-97; cf. Hoesterey 172-76; Jacobson201; Gray490) by showing how the echoes ofDas Fraulein von Scuderi in his novel expand construc- tively on the ironic-and by no means in- nocent-perspective on past poetry already evident in Hoffmann's text.2

Other commentaries have suggested that Suskind's 'parodic dialogue" with Das Fraulein von Scuderi (Jacobson 202) in- volves simply his rejection of a naive Romantic's portrayal of a murderous artist. Accordingly, Suskind has 'an easy time" parodying 'the naive or ridiculous" in Hoff- mann's presentation (Jacobson 204). Against this notion, one must credit Hoff- mann for developing a parodic and self-con- scious view of the potentials and limits of art that Siiskind acknowledges from early on in his work and then carries to postmod- ern extremes.

Suskind combines one striking allusion with a compelling list of similarities to make Das Fraulein von Scuderi foremost amonghismany interte~ts.~

Afterhis open- ing sentence all but quotes an important phrase from Hoffmann's story, the rest of his narrative evokes essentials of Hoff- mann's setting, plot, and theme to make that novella a recurring point ofcomparison and contrast with the text at hand.

The fwst sentence of Das Parfum al-

The German Quarterly 67.2 (Spring 1994) 22


ludes to the phase that introduces bn6 Cardillac. Its promise of "eine der genial- sten und abscheulichsten Gestalten" (P 5)4 of the mid-18th century is clearly a vari- ation on the description of Hoffmann's Cardillac as "einer der kunstreichsten und zugleich sonderbarsten Menschen" of the late 17th~entury(S22/17f.).~

Ofcourse,this description of Cardillac is itself an allusion on Hoffmann's part to yet another well- known German Kriminalgeschichte. It evokes Heinrich von Kleist9s Michael Kohlhaas (1808), whose fat sentence de- scribes its title figure as "einer der lrechtschaffensten zugleich und furchtbar- sten Manner" of the 16th century (Kleist 9; cf. Rindisbacher 301-02).

While basics of Suskind's narrative soon favor further comparisons between Gre- nouille and Cardillac, its double allusion in this first sentence forecasts the full scope and complexity of its postmodernist "dou- ble" or "multiple" code (cf. Jencks 97; Por- toghesi 5; Eco 81; Huyssen 187; Welsch 16- 17; Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism 30; Hoesterey 175; Ryan). With Grenouille, it offers a figure akin to Dracula, Jack the Ripper, or Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter inhispopular appeal to a general audience. Yet with its opening sentence, it also ad- dresses a reader acquainted with other well-known texts to which the novel al- ludes. Above all, it signals even here how the noveldraws attention to its relationship to works that are like it, not only in basic theme, but also in their tendency to allusion and self-conscious reflection on the poten- tials and limits of poetry.

First, Suskind's opening sentence phases its combination of "genius" and 'monster" as an allusion to aHoffmann pas- sage that itself alludes to Kleist. This in- vites the knowing reader to ponder the novel's kinship with Das Fraulein von Scuderi not simply as a romantic tale in- volving a monstrous artist, but also as a work typifying Hoffmann's tendency to sig- nal and reflect on the relationship of his work to spec~cromanticforerunners.It re- calls a Scuderi that follows Hoffmann9s Goldner ?bpf (1814115)-and, incidentally, anticipates Das Pa$um-by evoking and qualifying the idealisticvision of the artist's mission in Novalis's Heinrich von Ofterdin- gen (cf. Heine; Nygaard). Das Fraulein von Scuderi does this, for example, with a title heroine whose actions, while recalling the

achievements of Eros and Fabel in Kling- sohr's "M5rchenn (Novalis 290315; 6. Post), play that fairy tale's ideal of a world saved by poetry against a strikingly urn-

deemed historical reality (cf. Hoesterey

173-74; Ryan 398).

Second, by evoking specifically Scuderi andKohlhaas, Suskind's opening offers the readera still more detailed context in which to read the links of the Grenouille tale to the Romanticism of Hoffmann's day. Above all,it invites reflections on how the unfold- ing narrative, more than simply refuting the idealism and aestheticism of these two works, isresponding constructively to their views on history and art.

By evoking Kohlhaas and Cardillac here, Siiskind's novel programs the reader to receive Grenouille as one in a sequence of increasingly monstrous misfits whose terrors merely presage the upheavals and horrors of more modern times. By intimat- ing this context at the outset, the narrative offers Grenouille's story not so much as a radical new perspective on history and the gifted individual, but rather as another link in a chain of similar works reaching back to Hoffmann and Kleist. By adding its 18thcentury monster to Kleist's 16th-century "hero" and to Hoffmann's 17th-century murderer, it drives home the historical and poetological commentary already implicit in Das Fraulein von Scuderi: namely, that there is something less than permanent about the triumph of poetry over the chaos of reality.

Analogously, the presence of Kohlhaas and Scuderi also invites the knowing reader to see Siiskind's narrative as one in a tradition ofworks that reflect critically on how texts, artworks, and poets portray those recurring horrors. Das Par.fum pro- ceeds toward an ending that drastically subverts attempts to find positive meaning in what has happened. Doing so, it remains conscious ofits relationship to two romantic texts that also acknowledge ironically how only the hand of the poet can conjure up signs of love or salvation to weigh against the chaos of history. It evokes from the out- set, and then intensifies, the self-conscious poeticirony of its two predecessors. Kleist's Kohlhaasachieves such irony with the ex- tension of the text and contract motif to the narrative itself, and, above all, with the self- conscious metamorphosis of its chronicling narrator into the poetic creator of a fairy- tale finish (cf. Mehigan; Hoverland; Koelb). In Hoffmann's Scuderi, the irony is evident when the heroine's triumph and the "fairy- tale" good fortune of Olivier are subverted by the context of their heroic performances and by their relationship to Cardillac. Siiskind keeps the positions of Kleist and Hoffmann present from start to finish and ends with a still greater gap between the "reassuring ring" of his last sentence and the "parodic" background of its context (Ryan 401).

Following this opening allusion, Suskind's narrative develops a variety of similarities to Hoffmann9s story that keep Scuderi in the forefront of its interaction with romantictexts. Some already noted by critics, others proposed here for the frst time, the further evocations of Hoffmann verify, and enlarge upon, the implications born of the opening allusion. They consis- tently take up and intensify Hoffmann's critical perspective on romantic trends of his day.

Even the settings illustrate this rela- tionship. Both works play in a prerevolu- tionary yet strife-ridden France. Their events unfold amidst crises that predate the still more memorable horrors of the French Revolution and the emergence of Romanticism. Both stories depict artist fig- ures whose relationships to that greater stage of events invite critical reflection on a romantic tradition in art and poetry that turned, in the face of stillgreaterupheavals and monstrosities, away from historical and social reality to the more pleasant pur- suit of pretty aromas, verses, or ideals. Yet even Siiskind's choice of time frame indi- cates, rather than an effort merely to refute Hoffmann, a constructive process of parody that echoes aspects of the earlier text in order to reinforce warnings and ironies lost on previous readers.

Hoffmann presents a Cardillac whose obsession with preserving ideal beauties and unities makes him part of the anarchy of 1680. He also presents ascuderiwho only gradually emerges from her retreat into a realm of verses and gilt-edged books so alien to the needs ofher society and "family" (cf. Post). He is offering a distant mirror to poets of his own generation so obsessed with the flight into the intoxicating visions of their private Atlantis worlds that they ignore and abet the crises born of a reign of terror much closer than that of 1680. By portraying Paris in 1680 as a virtual reign of terror, with the blood of the guilty and innocent flowing in the streets (S 13/9f.), Hoffmann reminds readers in 1820 that Scuderi's felicitous rescue ofher youngfam- ily was at best an insular and fleeting vic- tory. She labored mightily to save some- thing from a reign of terror ultimately dwarfed by upheavals that no idealistic poet could cure. Thus, as Hoffmann places the triumph of rhetoric and poetry in the foreground, he evokes a dark background ofhistorical reality that subverts his appar- ently happy ending.

Suskind places his still more dangerous artist in a time frame that underlines what Hoffmann implies about historical develop- ments. He makes Grenouille the isolated and hostile artist in one. He offers no miti- gating, positive artist figure. Grenouille cultivates his world-making capacities in remotest seclusion from his countrymen and then returns to society to carry out his own "egocentric reign of terror" (Gray 493). Then, along with Siiskind's many allusions


Hoffmann and Siiskind

to Romanticism and Neo-Romanticism (cf. Hoesterey; Ryan), the time frame that he chooses for this echo of the Scuderi/Cardil- lac combination takes up and emphasizes Hoffmann's misgivings about how Roman- ticism responded to the complexities of modern reality. After evoking the Scuderi story with his f~stclause, he invents a Gre- nouille who fits between the chaos of Cardil- lac's day and the chain of terrors that Hoff- mann saw plaguing hishomeland from the 1790s and on to the anarchy and witch- hunt that he witnessed as writer and jurist when he wrote his story (Weiss). This emphasizes the implications of Hoffmann9s text about the tenuous, or even illusory, capacities ofart and poetry to heal and save. It shows Scuderi's solution coming apart in sensational fashion even before the Saint- Justs, Fouchks and Bonapartes (P 5) work terrors that give both Hoffmann and Suskind doubts about the high expecta- tions of an earlier Romanticism. Had Suskind wanted merely to belittle Hoff- mann's idealistic notion of poetic triumph in 1680 as laughably naive, he could have chosen from several major horrors of recent times. Yet by setting his story between Scuderi and Hoffmann, he takes Hoff- mann's side, embellishing the message al- ready present in his predecessor's text. Thus, even with his temporal setting, Siiskind echoes and exaggerates Das Fraulein von Scuderi in a way suggesting respect for Hoffmann. His relationship to Hoffmann tends to a category of parody that, rather than ridiculing the past work, instead satirizes "contemporary customs and practicesn (Hutcheon, "Modern Parody and Bakhtin" 92, 97; cf. Markiewicz 1265) or aims its criticism "at readers naive enough to mistake fiction for fact and ro- manticism for realismn (Morson 72). It ridi- cules, if anything, the obtuse readers of Hoffmann who remain naively unaware of the ironic context in which he places his idealistic vision of the poetic mission.

Even without Siiskind's allusion to Hoffmann in the first sentence, the other

basic similarities of plot and theme are striking. Yet they, too, involve differences significant for grasping the exact nature of the parody involved. Not simply do both stories portray an eccentricand gifted artist who becomes a murderer with devilish at- tributes. In both cases, the artistlmur- derers struggle to preserve unities and beauties from the intercourse of everyday life. They both become obsessed with virginal women; they both break with the con- ventional use of their talents for commer- cial purposes and create secretly, even criminally, for themselves. In both cases as well, the narrators supply information about the birth and childhood of these artists that appears to have some bearing on their adult behavior. In both cases, finally, that information concerns mothers who, implied to be promiscuous and greedy to a lethal degree, thrust their infant sons into a childhood of traumatic squalor. Yet one point causes difficulty. Suskind merely re- counts the facts of Grenouille's infancy and leaves the reader to consider their contri- bution to his artistic and murderous ways. On the other hand, Hoffmann-with the episode about Cardillads prenatal trauma (S 55)-appears to offer his early 19th-cen- tury readers a "credible psychological ex- planation of an artistlkiller" that Siiskind's parody then exposes as naive (Jacobson 203).

Yet far from differing so markedly on this question of formative influences, the stories again prove similar in a way sug- gesting Suskind's constructive parody of his ironicpredecessor. By including the epi- sode about Cardillads mother, Hoffmann does not attempt to appeal to readers willing to believe popular notions about the ef- fects of prenatal trauma--or fateful des- tiny--on individual development (contrast Weiss; Jacobson). More like Suskind (cf. Ja- cobson 203), Hoffmann isplaying ironically with the readiness of a reading public to embrace wondrous explanations ofcomplex problems. Also, he is presenting the rela- tionship of this artist to reality as a gro- tesquely extreme expression of essentially the same questionable romanticism that Siiskind then thrusts, embodied by Gre- nouille, into the foreground ofhis narrative.

Thisepisode enters Hoffmann's narra- tive enshrouded in layers of suspect narra- tive. It is a story based on stories, related within a story within the story. Not Hoff- mann or his narrator, but Cardillac himself offers this prenatal episode to explain his behavior (cf. Ellis; Schneider; Werner; con- trast Weiss; Jacobson). Not Hoffmannn or his narrator, but Cardillac himself claims that wise men have much to say about the wondrous influences that prenatal inci- dents can have upon a child (S 5514ff.; con- trast Jacobson 203). By remaining silent on the topic of prenatal trauma, the narrator allows the biased source of this adventur- ous explanation-the murderer himself (cf. Werner)-together with his portrayal of wisemen throughout the story as poisonous scientists and irresponsible court poets, to speak more for critical distance than for agreement. By commenting neither on the veracity of Cardillac's tale nor on the events surrounding his birth and childhood, Hoff- mann's narrator leaves the reader to as- sume one of two things. Either Cardillac has taken up and retold stories about an event involving his mother when she was pregnant withhim. Or Cardiuachas simply invented the entire sequence of bejeweled cavalier, pregnant mother, seduction, and mysterious death. In the former case, Cardillac may have suffered trauma as a child upon hearing that his mother, when he was one with her or in her, became in- volved in a promiscuous act motivated by greed and lust, and resulting in the death of the intruder. In the latter case, Cardillac may be projecting another childhood trauma involvinghis mother's sexual activ- ity-an episode of parental coitus, perhaps (cf. Schneider; Werner)-back into a time that renders him the helpless victim of a cruel fate and an evil world.

In either case, the tale points to circum- stances of Cardillac's birth and childhood in which the reader can-as with Gre- nouille-see the seeds of his later activity as a murderous artist. Whether Cardillac is passing on stories he has heard, or inventing the whole episode, the content of his tale suggests that, at an early age and in traumatic fashion, he experienced that the real world was not allthat a child might hope it to be. Whether through rumors about his pregnant mother, or through some childhood experience, or, perhaps, simply by encountering the moral stench of Parisian society-its misuse of beautiful art and women for gratification-he came to see all that he thought to be pure and originally one with himself caught up in a sordid struggle to satisfy need and lust. Like the facts of Grenouille9s case, finda- mentals of Cardillac's prenatal tale suggest that he experienced birth and childhood as a traumatic expulsion from safety and unity with his origins into the odious squalor of human and social reality. Like Grenouille, he turns to an artistic activity that caricatures the aesthetic idealism of the romantic tradition, embodying in gro- tesquely extreme form its negative response to unpleasant realities. Like the early German Romantic poets responding to the chaos and materialism of their day, both Cardillac and Grenouille take flight into an aesthetic activity that aggressively rejects material and sensual exploitation of art. While conventional goldsmiths and perfiuners fdorders for customers inclined to purchase beauty, and to use it to adorn and seduce, these two depart from the com- mercial use of their talents (cf. Werner). They strive instead to preserve absolutely,

and even at the cost of life, essences and ideals that reality threatens and misuses (cf. Gray 503f.).

In either case as well, Cardillac's telling of this story further characterizes him as an artist akin to Grenouille inhis tendency to distill from the raw materials of life- here, his own-some artfully preserved, sweet-smelling essence. Whether he is merely passing on stories once heard, or inventing the whole episode, the goldsmith Cardillac becomes here a storyteller bent upon fashioning his actions into a fiction that dresses up the ugly facts in trappings of pathos and mission. He kills to uphold ideals of a unity and chastity that are at odds with reality. He attempts to restore the perfect unity of artist and artwork, and to enforce feminine virtue-and prevent men from misusing Schmuck-in a world where intercourse is the order of the day in both areas. He becomes a murderer trying to guard forbidden fruits, and to serve vari- ous Ylolf virgins in a city where most swear to a saint named Dionysius. It is hardly out of place that both Miossens and the king (twice!) swear by St. Dionys (S 18123,67134, 74130f.). St. Dionys was an early pope (AD 260-268) and patron saint of Paris. Yet re- curring amidst so many references to heav- enly and holy virgins, the name underlines the contrast between Cardillac's obsessions

and the tenor of the times.

As a storyteller, Cardillac does violence to the complex truth to fashion a fancifully idealized version of himself. He romanti- cizes his actions and obscures the moral questionability of his behavior by offering himself as the object of a great struggle in- volving metaphysical forces. On the one hand, he is the victim of a fatell "evil star" (S56/5f., 5816) or of Satan (S 58/35); on the other hand, he associates himself with divine powers represented by exalted virgins. His artistic activity leads, like Gre- nouille's, to a dead-end tunnel and many corpses. Yet hisversion of events adornshis murderous response to those who sully or misuse his treasures in afiction that makes him appear, on the one hand, as a helpless victim of "wondrous influences" (S 55/5), and, on the other, as the avenging angel of virtue in a moralmorass that defiles beauty.

Another major point of comparison be- tween the two stories arises here. Both re- latetheir artist/murderers to a greater con- text of artistic or poetic activity. Both Cardillacand Grenouille are involved in the development and productivity of other art- ists-and the resulting network ofcompari- sons and contrasts that emerge among the various artists has a signiticant bearing on the intertextuality at issue here.

One striking difference: While Cardillac isone of several artist figures in Hoffmann's story, Grenouille stands alone, a singular artist figure in Suskind's novel. Hoffmann reflects on possibilities and dangers of artistic activity not solely through his artist/ murderer, but also through other poets, craftsmen, and storytellers. Siiskind nar- rows the focus to two artists: Grenouille and himself. By developing parallels between Grenouille's artistic activity and the "pro- cess by means of which the text itself has been constructed" (Ryan 396), he reflects self-consciously on Grenouille as a disturb- ing mirror of his own artistry (cf Stadel- maier; Jacobson).

By all appearances, Hoffmann's view of the artist retains, even foregrounds, posi- tive possibilities that Suskind omits. While both stories depict a gifted artist as mur- derer, Hoffmann appears to keep Cardillac at a distance. He reduces him to the evil element in a greater picture that shows the healing potentials of poetry prevailing. Cardillac yields center stage to artists ris- ing up against evil. Mlle. de Scuderi is not only the title figure but also the indisput- able central figure of his story (cf. Post; Pikulik, contrast Schneider). The narrative focuses on her response to the dangers that Cardillacembodies. It highlights her emer- gence from her illusory verses to use her rhetorical and narrative talents to rescue something from the moral swamp. Olivier Brusson also plays a decisive role in this positive development. He breaks free of his apprenticeship to Cardillac to narrate in a way that prevails against Cardillac's evil. He intrudes into Scuderi's isolated world of poetry, telling her of Cardillac's problems and rousing her out of her recurring Ohnmacht. Then, his daring refusal not to tell all of the facts helps to steer things to an apparently happy ending. Accordingly, Hoffmann counters the critical view of art

embodiedby Cardillacwith apositivepoetic developmentinwhich some interpretations have even seen echoes ofNovalis's idealistic view of the poeticmission (cf. Post). By con- trast, Suskind has stripped away the ide- alism of that foreground and placed his monster front and center, not countering him with visions of the healing potential of art or poetry.

Yet on thispoint, too, a closer lookshows how Suskind's echoes of Hoffmann, rather than simply refuting the earlier work for its naive faith in art, take up and intensify elements already present in Hoffmann's story. Hoffmann's story itself undermines the one saliently romantic feature that Suskind's novel, after alluding to Hoffmann with its opening sentence, and evoking his story throughout, provocatively drops. Far from offering an idealism that stands in contrast to Siiskind's view, it ironically sub- verts the ideal that Suskind then renders conspicuously absent. In doing so, it also anticipates the self-conscious parallel be- tween its own creative process and the artistry of its artist/murderer-a parallel that in Suskind's novel so radically undermines the closing intimations of the capacity of the artist to callforth miracles and love.

Hoffmann's story places its account of Scuderi's positive development and final triumph in a doubly ironic light. It estab- lishes a critical perspective on poetic activ- ity that attempts to hide problematic reali- ties behind some aromatic form of verse, drama, or narrative. As the narrative then proceeds toward its apparent happy end- ing, this skepticism strikes not only the two surviving artist figures but also the narra- tive itself. In Hoffmann's story, the final tri- umph of Scuderi and Olivier appears in a context that raises doubts about how the old poetess and her "son" relate to Cardillac. Hoffmann treats their positive turn with an irony--often overlooked by critics (cf Post)-that Siiskind's novel takes up and emphasizes.

The Olivier who seems so heroic when he keeps his silence is also concealing the truth behind a self-serving bit of perfor- mance and storytelling. The frequent ref- erences to his behavior here as "heldenmutig" (S 63/25, 64/19, 64/30) invite suspicion and criticalreflection, not to mention the absurdity of his story about shield- ing poor Madelon from the allegedly lethal truth about her father. These reflections cannot but note that Olivier is doing here what he had already done for too long when CardUac was still alive. As before, he is concealinghis shared guilt while retaining both Madelon and his heroic appearance. This he does with a piece of narrative that ranks him with Cardillac and even the nar- rator of the novella as yet another story- teller who leaves the unpleasant truth in the background while making much ofhow he acts in some great spiritual battle to serve a "heavenly" virgin. The gamble works for Olivier. Without having to be mourned as the "unschuldig Gefallener" (S 63/3), he appears heroic and wins Made- lon. Yet his exile from Paris associates him with those scientists and artists who imported so much trouble in the first place. Fittingly, Siiskind works elements reminis- cent of Olivier's dubious heroism in still more extreme form into his portrayal of Grenouille. This isevident when Grenouille deliberates killing his first victim in Grasse-he strikes heroically selfless poses while in fact toying with a young girl's life (P 244)--or when he escapes execution by sprinkling himself with the aroma of beau- tM virgins.

Similarly, the Scuderi who intercedes to help the young lovers is also offering yet another "careMy calculated performance" (Weiss 185) of illusory rhetoric and poetic fireworks. As with Olivieis 'heroism," the description of her poetic "victory" is of an extravagance that raises doubts. Appear- ances show her orchestrating a fairy-tale ending with herself in the role of %or- gende Mutter, die iiber den Jiingling schutzend ihre Hand hdt" (Pikulik 169)- or even as a "heilige Jungfrau" (S 61/12) giving life to a "son." Yet the larger context

reveals a continuing pattern that detracts from this triumph and shows the surviving players continuing with behavior that evokes aspects of Cardillac--or, for that matter, even of Grenouille.

More than once already, Scuderi has marshaled her poetic talents to earn the king's favor-yet misguide the Cardillac case. Early on, her little French verse had enchanted the king by adorning the street violence with a"ritterlicher Geist" (S 1EU2 1). Thismoved the king to act wWly in the Cardillac case andVuBeim heiligen Dio- nysY'(S 18i23)-let legal and criminal forces go their anarchic way. Later, she had sup- pressed "alle Schauer unheimlicher Ah-nun$ (S 29119f.) regarding Cardillac to charm the king with witty poetry about her status as the "dreiundsiebzigjahrige Gold- schmiedsbraut" (S 29120f.). The king praises this poem as "das Witzigste . . .,das je geschriebenn (S 29/25), and Scuderi puts the worrisome %rautschmuck" out of sight and mind while events run their ugly course. Responding months later to another frightening intrusion by her desper- ate-but, revealingly, unrecognized-"sonn (S 29f.), she flees the confusion and reaches for her pehme bottle (S 30118). Her brief resolve to extricate herself (S 30f.) soon fades, and she succumbs to the allure of courtly "Verse, Schauspiele, Anekdoten" (S 3V18f.) while Cardillacand Olivier go on to face Miossens.

Her last triumph is not a convincing ex- ception to this pattern. Scuderi plays Cardillac's bride once again, gaining the king's ear as much with her grand theatri- cal entrance in the notorious "Braut- schmuckn (S 70115f.) as with the power of her poetry (contrast Pikulik 169).Also, like her earlier chivalric verse (S 18)and witty poem (S 23, her narrative here distorts or suppresses some alarming truths. She takes care to omit any admission of wrong- doing by Olivier or herself; she celestializes liberally where Olivier's fate and Madelon9s beauty areconcerned (S 700. Like her pre- vious performances, too, these "glowing words" (S 70136) give rise both to more fulsome praise from theking and to more ques- tionable justice. In this context, the fact that Scuderi's speech strikes King Louis with the "Gewalt des lebendigsten Lebens" (S 70135f.) speaks as much for his ignorance as it does for her poetry (contrast Pikulik 169). Although he claims to have found Scuderi's eloquence-again "beirn heiligen Dionys" (S 74/30f.)-irresistible, it isin fact Madelon's "angelic" beauty that saves the day. Madelon reminds the king of a former mistress since turned nun. For allScuderi's efforts, Olivier's fate depends more on whether Louis will be guided by tender memories of that past love or by bitterness about her retreat to the nunnery (S72).

Despite its positive appearances, this poeticlast stand retains some of the alarm- ing undertones so evident in Scuderi's en- counter with Olivier preceding Cardillac's death (S 2931). Like her reaction then, her performance here might have at its center a moral resolve bespeaking a mother's de- votion to her son (compare S 30130f.). Yet it, too, starts and ends with flights into "per- fumery" (S 30118) and dabbling in the petty aestheticism and jealousies of the royal court (S 3l.115-26) that leave a dark side of both the society and the poetess unaltered. Freeing Olivier, Scuderi fosters one more instance of capricious justice in a chain of such events. The Cardillac case is wWy closed and forgotten, along with all it re- veals about dangerous extremes of art. While honoring her own talents, Scuderi also reveals her dubious status as"mother" and "bride." Her performance admits her dark betrothal to Cardillac and under- mines her "motherhood." She remains be- hind and alone in CardiUac's jewelry and black bridal costume. Olivier and Madelon depart, leaving her childless once again to tend to her verses and books as the world goes its way.

With this ending, Hoffmann parodies Novalis's "Klingsohf tale, rather than merely echoing it. He counters that alle- gorically expressed ideal of a world saved by poetry with this insular and ambiguous triumph of Scuderi. And fittingly again, Siiskind defiles and destroys the ideal that Hoffmann treatsironically. Itis a small step from the way Hoffmann's figures elevate themselves to celestial roles in some great cosmicstruggleto the way Grenouille sends up a silent prayer to himself for being the way he is (P278f.). It is a smaller step still from the poetry with which Scuderi douses herselfand Olivier to the pefime that Gre- node pours upon himself. Anointed with the m y concocted essences of virginal purity, they capture the all-swallowing pleasure of an unregenerate mob.

Hoffmann's ending draws not only Scuderi and Olivier but also the narrative itself into the shadow of irony that its art- istlmurderer casts upon art. Even with Olivier, the narrative includes a self-ironic mirror of how its own story of a dangerous artist turns into a self-serving glorification of artists. One important detail: Olivier's account of the goldsmith's death echoes the narrator's introduction of Cardillac. Its de- scription of him as the "verruchtester und zugleich unglucklichster aller Menschen" (S 53128f.) recalls the narrator's phrase, "einer der hstreichsten und zugleich sonderbarsten Menschen seiner Zeit" (S 22/17f.). Olivier then goes on to downplay what Cardillac's case implies about ques- tionable and &ty artists, while self-sew- ingly embellishing his role as a servant of transcendent forces and an innocent, heroic victim (S 62f.). He claims here that an "eter- nal power" (S 62132f.) has concealed the truth about Cardillac's "hellish deeds" (S 63/5), while in fact he and Cardillachave done the concealing. He professes here his readiness to be mourned by Madelon as an "unschuldig Gefallener" (S 63/3), while else- where he has admitted his guilt, claiming himself innocent only of "Blutschuld" (S 6212731).

While this inscribed narrative invites reflection on how its host text portrays guilty and heroic artists, the portrayal of Scuderi's triumph recalls Cardillac's fie

tions in a way that gives the coup degrdm to any simplistic reading of the title figure's development as a non-ironic paean to the power of poetry. The narrative foregrounds the virgin poetess asthe savior of art's heal- ing powers. It tries to guarantee through her the worth and sense of its own activity. Yet the same narrative has already shown Cardillac doing essentially the same thing in a very questionable manner. It has shown Cardillac turning to fictions involv- ing exalted virgins in an effort to give his activity a more appealing appearance. He takes pains to link his fate with such pure and exalted women as the virgin of St. Eustache or Henriette of England-ar Scuderi. Thus, long before the story itself embraces Scuderi as a savior of poetry, it has already presented Cardillac as a grotesque exponent of similarly illusory and self-serving idealism. His desire to make Scuderihis idol anticipates-and thus pre- quaEes-the narrative's attempt to deal with the pathological extremes of art while having them triumphed over by a poetess who recalls the Eros and Fabel figures in Novalis's Ofterdingen. The obvious gap be- tween the diseased truth of Cardillac's behavior and his fictional explanations in- vites a skeptical look at the triumph of heroism and poetry that the narrative's ending places in the foreground. It encourages reflection on how the ending of the story resembles Cardillac's self-centered treatment of his artworks. That is,much as CardillacUgives away,"but then steals back, his masterpieces, the story appears to give its readers in Scuderi a hopell perspective on the positive potential of art, yet simul- taneously repossesses it, making it another instance of the artist glorifying artistic ac- tivity that does violence to reality.

This element, too, Suskind takes up and emphasizes. The relationship of his ending to Hoffmann's goes beyond the fact that he exiles the likes of Olivier and Scuderi from his narrative. Instead, its ironic and parodic elements amplify the self-conscious criticism evident in the earlier work.

Siiskind's closing sequence evokes once more the authors alluded to in the first sen- tence of the novel. Then it goes on to inten- sify the irony with which they had embed- ded closing intimations of sense or hope in contexts that invited skeptical reflections on the validity of such texts and interpre- tations. And like Hoffmann's narrative in particular, Suskind's uses its similarity to the artistic activity of its artist/murderer to undermine its intimations of sense or clo- sure.

As the events of 25July 1767 approach, Suskind's narrative calls attention to how any attempt to read a redeeming sense into Grenouille's action imitates Grenouille's own self-glorifying misuse of stolen and ar- tistically enhanced aromas. The portrayal of Antoine Richis warns against readings of Grenouille that self-indulgently poeticize or idealize his actions, while recalling the ironic perspective of Hoffmann's story on Scuderi's poetic activity. Thus, while Sus- kind's novel pointedly lacks a figure corre- sponding to Scuderi as the triumphant poetess,itpresentsinRichis essentially the same self-glorifying idealism that Hoff- mann had portrayed critically in his heroine. As it does so, it drives home how such flghts into poetically beautified versions of reality entail kinship or complicity with the monstrous artist (cf. Gray 501).

Richis's interpretation of the serial killer recalls Scuderi's early poetic response to Cardillac's murders. Like Scuderi's little French verse, his deductions give events an idealistic appearance of sense and mission while allowing him to bask in the glory of his own sensibility and talent. He reveres the murderer for his eloquent logic and "ideelles Motiv," and even more so himself as the author of those insights (P 260). Richis's subsequent actions also recall the questionable aspects of Romantic idealism that Hoffmann had woven into Scuderi's development. His efforts to save frst his daughter and then his "son" echo the prog- ress of Scuderi's responses to the evil around her. Each sequence emphasizes the Hoffmann story's intimations of how ideal- istic flights of fancy involve either a selfish neglect or a self-glorifying beautification of reality.

When evil intrusions first threaten Scuderi's virgin world, she retreats into her poetic pursuits or falls "in Ohnmacht," only to become the unwitting accomplice to firther evil. Likewise Richis: sure of his su- periority to the murderer, he flees with his virgin daughter, only to become an unwit- ting accomplice in her death. Caught up in hisimage of intellectual hero, he styles himself as the gifted savior of virginal beauty, while in fact his actions threaten the life of a beautiful virgin. He poses, preens, and sleeps soundly while Grenouille does his work (P279).

Drawn at last into action, Scuderi had leaped to the defense of her "son" Olivier. She achieved a solution that the 111context renders suspect as yet another poetic per- formance concealingcomplex truthsbehind well-played impressions ofheroism and sal- vation. Richis's last acts echo that sequence and bring the dark background of Scuderi's relationship to Olivier pointedly to the fore. More blatantly than Scuderi, Richis ends as adoring savior of a @ty man lionized as hero. Failed once as a parent, he rescues Grenouille from the chaos and embraces him as his "son." These actions recall and transcend those of Scuderi and Olivier in their attempt to force an idealized, self- serving ending on gruesome events. Scuderi and Olivier had directed attention away from Cardillac and foregrounded as- suring images of other artists triumphing over such evil. Richis elevates and imitates the artisWmurderer; he promotes Grenouille and himself from their status as murderer and accomplice to guardians of perfection and ideals.

After taking up and emphasizing the irony of Hoffmann's view of idealistic poetry with Richis's episodes, Suskind's novel ends with a pointed reminder of its own kinship to those other suspect artists. Its closing episode blatantly imitates the "per- fuming"technique of Grenouille. It borrows and mixes pleasing aromas--or episodes, or phrases-to give self-centered activities the aura of nobility or beauty. Then, with its last sentence, it pointedly identifies it- self with a final, glaringly illusory, attempt at such beautification.

The account of Grenouille's death re- callsthe two authors alluded to in the open- ing sentence of the novel. It also intensifies the irony with which their works offer ide- alistic intimations of sense and triumph in what has happened. Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas is evoked again, for example, when one horrible execution is averted though the workings of what seem won- drous powers, only to be followed by another execution Einking the victim to the folk, and involving a strange act of devouring. The two-sided effect of such devouring on Suskind's mob-"Es war ihnen, wenn- gleich im Magen etwas schwer, im Henen durchaus leicht zumute" (P 320)-recalls the two Bible passages (Ezekiel 2:93:3 and Revelations 10:s-10:lO) evoked by Kleist's last episode, with their references to the pleasant and unpleasant results of swal- lowing (cf. Dietrick 171; Koelb 1103). Other works by Kleist are recalled as well: his drama Penthesilea, for example, where a hero is devoured, allegedly out of love (Kleist 796); or Die Marquise uon O..., where a scoundrel is forgiven and embraced so that self-serving fictions might be upheld (cf. Swales; Furst). Hoffmann's story is present again as well. With Scuderi con- spicuously absent, with Richis's imitation ofher a delusion, the mob itself offers up an echo of her struggle to rescue signs of love and hope from the chaos. Yet while Suskind's ending echoes specificmotifs and details from those earlier endings, it sub- jects their ironically offered assurances of hope or sense to still more blatant subver- sion. It poses even those qualified signs against a radically disillusioning context that shows the figures adorning events in pleasing, ennobling phrases. By ending with the voracious mob's attempt to put a

smiling face of pride and love on what has happened (P 320), it identifies itself with such efforts. It refuses to rise righteously above them, or to pump out further, more pleasant aromas orideals that might rescue a closing glimpse of the healing capacity of its poetry. Instead, by falling silent with the mob's illusory imitation of the idealism of an earlier age, Suskind's narrative invites readers to remain forever disinclined to "swdow" poetic intimations that would beautify the truth (6.

Ryan 402).

Thus, Suskind's text, more than simply including Das Fraulein von Scdriin its large roster of works recalled, evokes Hoff- mands story throughout, alluding to it in the first sentence and echoing it with es- sentials of setting, plot, theme, and ending. The postmodernist's parody of that prede- cessor might appear simply to counter and refute the earlier work's struggle to save some saving power for poetry and art in chaotic times. Suskind's narrative deprives the nrtist/murderer of any excuse for his actions; it eliminates elements that might seem to explain or justify. Also, it provocatively drops that idealisticpromise to which Hoffmann appears to have given titular sig- nificance: the poetess as savior. Yet while Suskind's changes are significant testi- mony to his postmodernist thrust, this closer look at his echoes of Hoffmann's story reveals more homage and constructiveness in his response to this one romantic text so prominent in his entire pastiche. It shows Suskind underlining critical perspectives on the artist that Hoffmann makes with subtle irony. It also shows Suskind evoking Hoffmann's works, not in order simply to ridicule the illusory ideals of an earlier era, but rather to echo Hoffmann's misgivings in exaggerated form, while paying tribute to the open-ended, lastingly provocative self-irony of his prescient forerunner. As Suskind contributes to a 'new portrait of the artist that emerges from the ashes of the tradition of Kiinstlerliteratur" (Jacob- son 2031, he also leaves Little doubt that Hoffmann's story contains promising em-

bryos of that phoenix's rebirth.


lFor a defense of postmodernist inter- textuality, see especially Huyssen, Welsch, Hoesterey, and Hutcheon,A Poetics ofPostmod- ernism.

2Hoesterey leads this defense of Das Par- fum (esp. 175), arguing that it fulfills Eco's def- inition of the ideal postmodern novel, whose answer to modernism consists in its acknowl- edgment of a past "die auf neue Weise ins Auge gefaljt werden md:mit Ironic und olnle Un- schuld" (Eco 78). Jacobson pursues a similar defense, attributing the "IronieAJnschuld" dic- tum to Ortheil (Jacobson 201; Ortheil17).

3Regarding the term "allusion" used here, see Ben-Porat and Perri. For a survey ofworks, styles, genres to which Das Parfum refers or alludes, see Hoesterey (172-75), Hallet, Ryan, Jacobson, Rindisbacher, and Gray.

4References to Siiskind's novel are indi- cated in the text in parentheses by "P" + page numbeds).

5References to Hoffmann's story are indi- cated in the text in parentheses by "S" + pagelline numbeds).

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