On Love and Death by Patrick Suskind

On Love and Death My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very short book of Suskind’s musings on love and its relation to death, with some interesting insights for his famous novel Perfume (and possibly some of his others as well – I have yet to read them).

Love, Eros is described as a frenzy, “the finest frenzy there is… a mania inspired by and yearning for the divine” (15). Love is “a force instilling in human beings a desire for what they lack: beauty, virtue, happiness, perfection – whose reflection the lover sees in the beloved – and finally even immortality” (15-16)

Suskind looks at examples of Eros as an insanity that leads to poor choices, an intense desire in which lovers cut themselves off from the world and even scorn everyone else in their longing for each other. There is also a more noble example of a writer who falls in love with a waiter but never confesses it, turning his passion into creativity instead, using love to achieve immortality through his work.

About halfway through this little book, Suskind turns to the relationship between love and death. “[L:]ove in general is on easy terms with death” (42) he says – lovers kill themselves to escape the pain of love, others are willing to accept death as the price for a great love. Suskind turns to the poetry of Goethe and the suicide of writer Heinrich von Kleist to explore the idea of love finding “it’s highest and purest form, indeed it’s fulfillment, in death” (43).

Finally he compares Orpheus to Jesus Christ, both of whom tried to conquer death for the sake of love, and comes to the conclusion that Orpheus is more human and his story more touching because of his humility and his ultimate failure.

These musings are literary, not literal, making it a quick and interesting read for literature lovers and anyone interested in the association of love with death and insanity.

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