The Pigeon

The Pigeon

  • Hardback
By (author) Patrick Süskind , Translated by John E. Wood

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This is the story of a day in the meticulously ordered life of Jonathan Noel. Set in Paris, it reveals the tensions that can push such a person to the brink of insanity. Patrick Suskind has also written "Perfume", "The Story of Mr Sommer" and a play, "The Double Bass".

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  • Hardback | 128 pages
  • 20 Oct 1995
  • Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • London
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0747522561
  • 9780747522560
  • 538,398

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Review text

Suskind, German author of the vivid, stylish, but overrated Perfume (1986), a fable of human stink, now offers a more conventional, clinical serving of dour existentialism: one day in the stultifying life of Paris bank-guard Jonathan Noel - whose narrow, rigidly controlled existence is thrown into fearsome chaos by a tiny invasion from nature. Now past 50, Noel lost his parents to a concentration camp in 1942 - and has ever since, only half-understandably, sought "monotone serenity and uneventfulness." So, after being abandoned by his new wife in 1954, Noel carved out his niche: the impassive bank job; utterly regular, utterly solitary habits; a tiny seventh-floor-walkup room, being purchased outright on an installment plan after 30 years of renting ("the only thing that had proved dependable in his life"). But then, "in August 1984, on a Friday morning," Noel opens his door, sees a pigeon ("the epitome of chaos and anarchy") crouching right there in the hall - and becomes unhinged: "your whole life has been a lie, you've made a mess of it, because it's been upended by a pigeon, you must kill it, but you can't kill it. . ." Terrified of further encounters with the pigeon, Noel flees with a packed suitcase through green spatterings of bird-dirt in the hall, "certain he would never be able to return." For the first time he is absent-minded at the bank; he's filled with "raging self-hatred," especially after tearing a hole in his trousers; he imagines himself becoming like the local bum he sees "shitting in the street." Amid echoes of Perfume, he is soon railing against the hot, stinking city and everything in it - till, after a near-suicidal night in a flophouse, the status quo is quietly restored. Possibly symbolic (Noel=Christ?), probably readable as a man-vs.-universe fable, marginally amusing in a cruel way - and grimly impressive, at taut novella-length, as a cool close-up study of severe obsessive-compulsive neurosis. (Kirkus Reviews)

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