The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses

December 5, 2020
The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses

For as long as anyone can remember, a man named Luca Turin hashad an uncanny relationship with smells. He has been compared tothe hero of Patrick Süskind's novel Perfume, buthis story is in fact stranger, because it is true. It concerns howhe made use of his powerful gifts to solve one of the last greatmysteries of the human body: how our noses work.Luca Turin can distinguish the components of just about anysmell, from the world's most refined perfumes to the air in asubway car on the Paris metro. A distinguished scientist, he onceworked in an unrelated field, though he made a hobby of collectingfragrances. But when, as a lark, he published a collection of hisreviews of the world's perfumes, the book hit the small, insularbusiness of perfume makers like a thunderclap. Who is this man LucaTurin, they demanded, and how does he know so much? The closedcommunity of scent creation opened up to Luca Turin, and hediscovered a fact that astonished him: no one in this world knewhow smell worked. Billions and billions of dollars were spentcreating scents in a manner amounting to glorified trial anderror.The solution to the mystery of every other human sense has ledto the Nobel Prize, if not vast riches. Why, Luca Turin thought,should smell be any different? So he gave his life to this greatpuzzle. And in the end, incredibly, it would seem that he solvedit. But when enormously powerful interests are threatened and greatreputations are at stake, Luca Turin learned, nothing is quite whatit seems.Acclaimed writer Chandler Burr has spent four years chroniclingLuca Turin's quest to unravel the mystery of how our sense of smellworks. What has emerged is an enthralling, magical book thatchanges the way we think about that area between our mouth and oureyes, and its profound, secret hold on our lives.From the Hardcover edition.