"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of wirtherings, of tarnishings."
Poor me I reverted this year to that pool of endless discoveries: literature and specifically two cases of unrequited or impossible love.
One of them revolves around the impossibility of the love of the nymphet, of a "Lolita", in Vladimir Nabovok's famous and stylistically memorable novel of the same name. Indeed one can hardly call it a love story, tragic or otherwise. Although possibly everything must have been written around this lyrical tome and its "poetics of betrayal" ~and the issue of pedophilia is arising again in public consciousness due to the recent allegations (re)thrown at Woody Allen's face decades later~ one of the aspects that hasn't been quite explored yet is the insistence of the emigre writer on the scented aspect of Humbert's unrequited, obsessive (and yes, ultimately sickly) love. It is a sort of love, no doubt, because he expresses all the symptoms of eros. His male gaze is held by the thread of fascination: on the one hand of the unknowing pull that the nymphet, Dolores Haze, has upon him,;on the other hand his sophisticated European professorial veneer recognizes that the stuff arousing the little one's admiration is uniformly "trash" ~she lacks the necessary critical distance to judge it. (This includes celebrity and film magazines, shops with knick knack souvenirs, comics etc.)
"My Dolly, my folly! Her eyes were vair,
And never closed when I kissed her.
Know an old perfume called Soleil Vert?
Are you from Paris, mister?"
Soleil Vert literally translates as "green sun" and isn't among the many historical fragrances which I am aware of. Supposedly this secret smell, this surreal sun which evokes the variations of light shone upon the two unlikely lovers constantly mentioned in the novel, is the one which has bonded the memory of her to him, a gift from him; one which he chose for her. Much like he chose one for her mother's sake, the landlady he had betrothed a little while before her tragic death in the hopes of keeping at the nymphet's side. But it is still interesting to contrast how mother Haze tricks Humbert into thinking he is going to be picking up perfume for a friend of hers, as an intended gift, when in fact the perfume is then held hostage to be used by the flirtatious woman herself in an equally sorrowful love tension tormenting the love-struck Charlotte in the hopes of catching her tenant's (unrequited) amorous interest.
Another memorable incident of scent marking the impossibility of love shared in literature comes from a part of the life-long diaries of Anais Nin, amassed in the tome titled Henry & June in which she recounts her rising desire for sexual and erotic exploration despite her genuine love for her banker husband, Hugo. Her adventuring desire positively detonates upon meeting the writer Henry Miller (famous for his own unabashed depictions of sexual exploration and erotic experiences in his work) and his beautiful, destitute, but "destructive"wife June Mansfield. The two women indulge in a bit of Sapphic intimacy marking the impossibility of a fully fledged relationship in the context of the mores of the times, or more importantly as the writer continually stresses her feelings of love and friendship for her husband whom she won't quit and June's detached state in life. But it is again perfume, this time in the form of Guerlain's Mitsouko, which creates the tension of memory for the star-crossed lovers.
June asks for Anais to gift her with her perfume as a memento. The perfume is again mentioned as being the thing she notices and keeps as a memory from Anais' house. It's referenced by monetary value too (it's expensive for poor Miller and his wife). It's implied as a mysterious veil that captures the essence of Anais too. In a way, the Guerlain perfume loses some of the respectability and bourgeois factor it enjoys as the scent of choice of a banker's wife and earns through this impossible love, this fated affair, the reputation of a scent that signals a capitulation to some erotic journey of the mind and of the soul.
Anais and another Guerlain perfume, L'Heure Bleue, are wonderfully, poignantly tied in a love poem which I had read a while ago and I hereby quote for you.
"The blue hour perfume hesitates
like a turquoise tear, before falling
cerulean through her hourglass night;
a mauve nocturne of
low saxophone notes
and amaretto sorrows,
echoing footfalls of younger years
departing her dark almond-forest hair;
so as not to awaken from a dream
about to come true, blossoming
within herself; an indigo rose,
unfolding lavender lovers
pressed violet against her lips."
found on Underground voices, Don Pesavento
 Vladimir Nabokov
 Anais Nin
Don't forget to check out the links for the posts of my friends:
Gaia on The Non Blonde
and Lucas on Chemist in a Bottle.