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On Love and Death

Patrick Süskind

Book Review

On the subject of two ubiquitous and inevitable fundamental

concepts and forces of (and in) life that bind and touch us all,

Patrick Süskind endeavours to explicate the ineffable powers

of love and death, and their connexion to one another in his

inimitable style.

Süskind, known for his reclusive nature currently residing in

Munich, is an acclaimed writer renowned for tackling

On Love and Death opens with St Augustine’s quote from Confessions. The second delves into the subject of death and its correlation with love and their entwinement. then I know what it is. but if someone asks me about it and I try to explain it to him. If no one asks me about it. Orpheus. – and their relation to love and death. On Love and Death is his fifth (and first nonfictional) book. (7) . and a play entitled The Double-Bass (1987). The little (in size) and short theoretical book is divided into three sections.philosophical and psychological themes in an unusual. Jesus. His fictional writings – all diverse in nature – are three (uncanny) novels: the international bestseller Perfume. a collection of stories. novel and laudable way. The third deals with contrasting characters – one mythical. then I do not know what it is. Three Stories and a Reflection (1996). and the second “biblical”. followed by The Pigeon (1988) and The Story of Mr Summer (1996). The first discusses the nature of love – in somewhat of a bleak approach – and its varying views and kinds. his first debut (1976). Both sections enriched with citations from illustrious philosophers and writers (the latter known more to Europeans) from philosophical and literary classics.

a dinner in honour of a newly married couple: wild and delusional. the Nobel Prize Laureate Thomas Mann’s forbidden love in his advanced years: idealistic and unrequited. What St Augustine says of time is equally true of love. (9) Broaching the concept of love in the first part of the book. he also makes common deductions about all three. after a brief introduction. but if we begin reflecting on the subject we find ourselves deep in trouble. Süskind dives into three examples. (33) And . each illustrating three different kinds of love. a young couple’s public display: animal love.. The less we think about it. and third.Süskind reflects..a considerable amount of stupidity is evident in love and infatuation. the more self-evident it seems. While Süskind draws three different conclusions from the three anecdotes. First. . second.

.love in general is on easy terms with death.. (42) Then followed by tales of suicidal and erotic longing for death. and we want nothing to do with such characters today. for love and in the name of love.. literally a killjoy. . (33) The reticent topic of death then ensues. by German writers predominantly Goethe and Kleist. a spoilsport.because death is the spirit of the eternal negative. .. (39-40) Eros (Greek god of love) and Thanatos (Greek personification of death) are alluded to here to embody the merging of the two. Death has fallen silent and commands our silence. . and we are happy to comply...yet it seems more appropriate to describe it as a temporary loss of intelligence induced by love.

and relatively fictional. having an understanding regarding the history of European writers. – everyone is entitled to their opinion – and the content in some areas are explicit for religious and/or sensitive readers. It is only an essay. Starting with Orpheus’s tale of regaining his love (Eurydice) and moving on to Jesus’s resurrection of Lazarus. not that a topic of this nature can be addressed fully in a small book. it does not diminish the essence of the book. nonetheless. . However. worse still. he expounds on love in terms of death. to some degree. as incomplete with no definite conclusion. This may have been intentional leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. which again may flummox readers. Süskind’s tone can come across as derisive and it may leave some readers irked. On Love and Death may leave some readers confounded and wanting more because the topic reads. that he compares an actual character (Jesus) to a mythical one (Orpheus). The author’s assessment of love is morbid. the third and last part is solely the opinion of the author. he compares the two in their dealings with love and death specifically because they both dealt with death directly. it is explicable. Although the author’s analogies may be disagreeable.Where the two previous sections mostly entail the opinions of others.

which is more of a reason to learn something new for readers who are unversed in the above-mentioned fields. Especially as it seems the intended audience may have been readership in Europe. writers and stories vis-à-vis the theme. Overlooking the author’s distaste for Jesus. Though it is not as compelling as his other works.If nothing else. Wednesday. it is an epigrammatic history lesson (old and modern) about European philosophers. – it is a book of an acquired taste – On Love and Death still draws you in if only to read and fathom the author’s conception. philosophy. The writings of Patrick Süskind are exceptional and this one is no exception. readers will get a glimpse into the mindset of an ingenious writer on a profound topic. deduced from his inclined preference to Orpheus. insight and perspective on love and death. and his portrayal of it. 1st August 2012 .