Basurde Xiao Long

Libros: ¨The Perfumist of Paris¨, by Alka Joshi.

Libros: ¨The Perfumist of Paris¨, by Alka Joshi.

La novela ¨La perfumista de París¨ es la tercera novela de la Trilogía de Jaipur.

Leí las dos primeras, ¨La artista de henna¨ y ¨Los secretos de Jaipur¨, me encantaron, y tenía muchas ganas de ponerme con la tercera, que fue publicada originalmente en inglés el 28 de marzo de 2023. A la hora de buscar este título en español, ¡oh, desgracia!, vi que a día de hoy todavía no se ha traducido ni hay fecha para su publicación en castellano. Está a la venta en holandés como ¨De geur van regen¨ desde el 4 de mayo de 2023, en francés como ¨La Parfumeuse de Paris¨ desde el 12 de julio de 2023 y en portugués como ¨A perfumista de Paris¨ desde el 2 de octubre de 2023. En alemán se publicará como ¨Die Parfümeurin von Paris¨ el 21 de mayo de 2024 y está en danés como ¨Parfume Mageren Fra Paris¨. En español… ¡nada de nada! ¡Qué triste!


Grandes males, grandes remedios y como no puedo esperar a que se publique en castellano me he puesto con la edición original en inglés. ¡No me ha defraudado, me ha encantado!


Dice así la contraportada:


¨París, 1974. Radha is now thirty-two and living in Paris with her husband, Pierre, and their two daughters. She stills grieves for the baby boy she gave up years ago, when she was only a child herself, but she loves being a mother to her daughters, and she´s finally found her passion -the treasure trove of scents.


When her friend’s grandfather had offered her a job at his parfumerie, she quickly discovered she had a talent -she could find the perfect fragrance for any customer who walked through the door. Now, ten years later, she´s working for a master perfumer, helping to design completely new fragrances for clients and building her career one scent at a time. She only wishes Pierre could understand her need to work. She feels his frustration, but she can´t give up the thing that drives her.


Tasked with her first major project, Radha travels to India, where she enlists the help of her sister, Laskhmi, and the courtesans of Agra -women who use the power of fragrance to seduce, tease, and entice. She´s on the cusp of a breakthrough when she finds out that the son she never told her husband about is heading to Paris to find her -upending her carefully managed world and threatening to destroy a vulnerable marriage¨.


Sobre la autora:


¨Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the US. She has a BA from Standord University and an MFA from California College of Arts. Joshi´s debut novel, The Henna Artist, immediately became a NYT bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Bookclub pick, was long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and is in development as a TV series. Her second novel, The Secret-Keeper of Jaipur, was released in 2021. The Perfumist of Paris is her third novel¨.


¡Vaya éxito! Tres novelas, tres bombazos.


En la línea habitual, extraigo párrafos que me han llamado la atención, empezando con esta cita que aparece al principio:


¨Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles

and all the years you have lived.¨

-Helen Keller-


Sin duda. Hay olores que inmediatamente nos transportan a una persona que conocimos en el pasado o a un lugar. Fascinante.


Curiosamente la novela empieza el día de mi nacimiento, que fue el decimoséptimo cumpleaños de uno de los personajes: 



September 2, 1974


I pick up on the first ring; I know it´s going to be her. She always calls on his birthday. Not to remind me of the day he came into this world but to let me know I ´m not alone in my remembrance.

    ¨Jiji?¨ I keep my voice low. I don´t want to wake Pierre and the girls.

    ¨Kaisi ho, choti behen?¨ my sister says. I hear the smile in her voice, and I respond with my own. It´s lovely to hear Lakshmi´s gentle Hindi here in my Paris apartment four thousand miles aways. I´d always called her Jiji -big sister- but she hadn´t always called me choti behen. It was Malik who addressed me as little sister when I first met him in Jaipur eighteen years ago, and he wasn´t even related to Jiji and me by blood. He has simply her apprentice. My sister started calling me choti behen later, after everything in Jaipur turned topsy-turvy, forcing us to make a new home in Shimla.

    Today, my sister will talk about everything except the reason she´s calling. It´s the only way she´s found to make sure I get out of bed on this particular date, to prevent me from spiraling into darkness every year on the second of September, the day my son, Niki, was born¨.


El siguiente párrafo me ha llamado la atención porque menciona al padre de Rudyard Kipling, quien por lo visto diseñó la iglesia Christ Church en Shimla:


¨Pierre has a lovely, melodic voice. He used t oread the Notre-Dame de Paris to me in bed when we were first together. A peculiar choice, but it had a significant role in our courtship. Our first date had been a walk along the Ridge in Shimla. He stopped to admire the Gothic architecture of Christ Church, praising the pointed arches, the stained-glass windows designed by Rudyard Kipling´s father, the rib vaults. ¨But it´s nowhere as grand as the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Have you seen it?¨ he asked.¨


¨Hah!¨ I stifle a laugh. ¨If anything, it´s worse. Every year, the same fight. She wants the grils to go to Marymount, the Catholic school. How can I raise my girls in a religion with only one God when I´ve grown up with Swaraswati and Vishnu and Durga and Lakshmi and Ganesh and Hunuman? I would rather let the girls decide what they want to believe when they´re older.¨


¨Now, as I sit in Agra at Hazi and Nasreen´s house, what I´m feeling is excitement, the same excitement I felt when I ran to Paris with Pierre. As if I´m about to start a new adventure, one which promises to shed old sking, like a king cobra. Maybe Jiji´s right. Maybe this trip will result in something remarkable, something manificent.

    I look up at my sister and realize she´s been watching me. Her green-blue-gray eyes are thoughtful. It´s as if she´s privy to the thoughts flitting across my brain, making me wonder if I´ve spoken them out loud. I look away, shielding my eyes from her gaze.

    She taps my knee. ¨You know, Radha, I don´t always know what I´m doing. I try something. If it doesn´t work, I try something else. None of us are perfect, are we? But we have to keep trying to be our best selves. You are on your way to the top. You´ll make some missteps, but that´s normal. Mostly you´re going to do things that you didn´t know you are capable of.¨


¨I am so pleased I sit back and survey my perfume organ. I used to have a tiny brass statue of Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles, hidden among the bottles of scent. Laskhmi sent it to me when I first began working for Delphine. But I felt self-conscious in case Celeste saw it when she did her monthly inventory. I take it out now from my bottom drawer. Lord Ganesh gazes at me placidly from his perch on a rat. In his four hands are items that have meaning for me and the significance I have given to each: a lotus flower for the knowledge that has led me to this place in time; laddus for the sweet results of my efforts; a hatchet to clear what stands in my way; and the blessing of his hand that I need for each project. Not everyone would agree with my interpretation, for there are many images of the Elephant God, and they all differ in some way. I cannot perform aarti for him here at work, but on this occasion, I take his benediction into my hands anyway and bring it to my face. What I´m doing is no difference from what Florence is doing this morning at mass -accepting the blessing of her chosen God¨.


El tema de feminismo está presente a través de sus dos personajes principales, Radha y Lakshmi, dos mujeres inteligentes en sociedades no igualitarias. En este caso, sin embargo, es Florence la que pone voz a la discriminación de las mujeres:


¨She´s still talking. ¨Being a woman is difficult. I can see why my mother didn´t like her own gender. We can do so much. Give so much. But not everyone wants what we´re offering. And in the end, we´re left with… pieces of a whole. Shards. Splinters. Chips. Pick them up, they cut your hands. Leave them on the ground, they cut our feet. It´s hard for us to just walk away.¨


Esta vez es Sheela hablando:


¨I´m starting a company that I hope will support them one day. It´s called Remember Me. A line of scents for the women in classic paintings, the ones history forgot or ignores.

    Did you know I studied art history in the States? I´ve spent a lot of time with the paintings here in Paris. When I look at the ballerinas of Dégas or the dancing girls of Lautrec or Titian´s Girl in a Fur, I wonder about the female subjects. They were as critical to the artist´s success as his skill. They posed for hours, ignoring their thirst or hunger, their aching muscles. Who were they to the painter? What were they thinking while posing? Why did they agree to pose for him? Whom were they supporting with the money they might have been paid? So many questions for me. But I find few answers. Why does no one talk about these women? The focus is always on the men -the artists. I started wondering: When I die, who will remember me? I´ve raised two incredible girls. Yet, the Singhs places them second to boys. Who will remember my daughters? Are men the only figures to be immortalized in history?¨.


¨Did you know there´s a Hindu belief that the people known to you in this life are the same that we´re always trying to learn how to coexist with those people in a better way? Agnes was your mother in this life, but you might have been her mother in our past life or her best friend.¨


A Radha, la perfumista de París, le encargan encontrar la fragancia que representaría a la mujer en el cuadro ¨Olympia¨ de Édouard Manet. La mujer que posó como modelo en esa pintura fue Victorine Meurent. Le siguieron otros perfumes que representaban a otras seis mujeres olvidadas:


¨During the last four months, Delphine, Michel and I have identified six of Sheela´s ¨forgotten women¨ from classic paintings. I´ve been studying each of them -Gérard had been a big help -to develop ideas about fragrances that could define them. There´s van Gogh´s La Berceuse, a portrait of Augustine Roulin, the wife of the Arles postman who befriended the painter. She´s looking away from the painter, as if she´s not comfortable with him; there are depths of meaning to be uncovered there. There´s Berthe Morisot´s The Cradle, where a woman watches over a sleeping baby, lost in thought. Is she the mother or the governess? What is she thinking? We are also considering Morisot´s Woman at Her Toilette because of the beauty of the subject´s half-dressed torso. Is she getting dressed or undressed? Something about the twist of her back seems resigned, and we´re thinking of exploring that. We wanted to include and accomplished Indian painter, of course, and Sumair by Amrita Sher-Gil seems a perfect choice. And although I´m not a big fan of Gaugin´s appropriation of Tahitian women, I think we do need to honor his teenage Tahitian wife and muse in Tehama Has Many Parents¨.


Es un libro que te hace pensar sobre la discriminación histórica hacia las mujeres. También, menciona cómo la industria de los perfumes perjudica la ecología:


¨There´s no easy way to justify a life taken. The Himalayan while-bellied musk deer lends his life to the creation of musk, the scent used in so many fragrances around the world. Sandalwood oil, a popular base note we use at the House of Yves, is produced by chopping down entire forests that take up to sixty years to grow. The forests are not being replenished. Until I started working with scents, I´d never given much thought to where agarbatti, incense sticks, came from. The agarwood tree becomes infected by a fungus, occurring naturally, that produces an aromatic resin used in perfumes. In India, whenever I walked past a temple or mosque or a shop with a small puja, I would feel soothed by the scent of incense, never once calculating the cost of that luxury. Agarwood trees are dying out. Same with the depletion of vetiver grass from India, the scent I wrestled with in Delphine´s formula years ago and which led to my work on the Olympia project¨.


Esta cita me ha hecho gracia: ¨A wise man to the rest of the world is a nobody at home¨.


Me ha encantado la novela y espero que la escritora Alka Joshi publique su cuarta novela pronto.

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