[Book Review] On "The pigeon" by Patrick Suskind

artwork by Desse Bui.
Patrick Suskind, born in 1949, is a German writer and screenwriter. He is most famous for his international best-seller novel, "The perfume", which has been published in more than 20 languages and has a movie based on its plot. "The perfume" was also the first work from him that I read, and made a great impact on how I built my own kind of characters in my stories. However, this piece of writing is not about "The perfume", but the later became my favorite of all time book, "The pigeon".
"The pigeon" is about a man living in solitude, whose lifestyle matches with Belikhov’s of "Man in a case" by Anton Chekhov - a short story included in the literature book for highschool students. All the men in those stories chose to live on their own, to live out of anybody's reach. I cannot tell if they were scared of people, but I can always tell that they, in the end, turned out to be among ones who need others the most.
“The pigeon” starts with Jonathan Noel’s life series of tragedies, when his parents both left him and his sister, when his sister escaped to Canada, when he had to work on his uncle’s demand, when he married a young woman without knowing her at first place, and when she at last ran away with her lover, some foreigner merchant that sells fruit. “Drawing on those episodes, Jonathan Noel came to the conclusion that you cannot depend on people, and you can live in peace only if you keep them at arm’s length.” And the main character really worked on that idea. He went to withdrew his savings, packed his bags and headed for Paris. He left nothing behind and he regretted nothing, mostly because he found luck, both from work and from his finding a place to live. He took over the role of a bank guard, and then later settled in a “chambre de bonne” - a kind of apartment that consists of only one single room and usually found at the top of the building. He loved his chambre de bonne so much, that Noel planned to buy it for his own with the price of fifty-five thousand new francs, of which he had already paid forty-seven thousand. This is when he shares the same “love” with Belikhov - the love of living in “comfort”, in solitude, in their own world and of nothing that can make them embarrassed.
artwork by Desse Bui.
The life of Jonathan changed completely after he met a pigeon on a random morning after over 20 peaceful years working as a guard. He thought that those years will count until he has his last breath, and that he will never be struck by tragedy and shame and will never become everyone’s stock of laugh one more time. Once again, this event is similar to of Belikhov. The pigeon made him panicked and his belief shook so much, that he decided to pack his things and leave, for the second time in his life. He decided that he would never ever come back, because his private and comfortable life was now violated, was now ruined by a pigeon.
artwork by Desse Bui.
If “The perfume” is a story that you cannot find anywhere, a story so outstanding about the begin and end of a genius murder, “The pigeon” is nothing alike. It is about a man, rather casual one, a man that you can find anywhere, and even the plot, the character’s reaction is nothing so flawless and carefully calculated like of Jean Baptiste. That is the main reason why I love The pigeon so much. Suskind did a good job in using simple words to build a simple man and a simple situation that raise not so simple impression in readers. It makes me think, make me go “hmm”. It makes me sympathize. We will also act like him when encountering such terror. We will also lost our belief in other people when put in the case that everyone you hold dear in your heart left, and you had no choice but a lifelong solitude.
artwork by Desse Bui.
In the end, Jonathan came back to his apartment. The pigeon was gone. He felt life and the details of life that he never did in over 20 years. Readers cannot know if he still chose to end his life the other day as he planned to, but at least they know he had comeback and learned that he loved the smell of coffee so much when he walked up the service stairs, and he then could sense the scent of life that he took for granted. In the end, Noel knew he could not live without people.
The fact that the character realized he could not live without people made a huge difference with any other characters, who hated the society and hated it for life. But Jonathan loves people eventually. That is why I love "The pigeon" so much, because we all could not live without others, regardless of the fact that we are vulnerable to them.
all artwork by Dusse Bui.
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