Summer Reading

I was in the town of Nancy one Saturday, and happened upon a used bookstore. I love used books. The worn pages, the musty smell, sometimes with a note inside the front cover, sometimes something clever in a margin. And I love used bookstores, because the people working in them tend to be a tad more passionate about their merchandise than clerks in other retail establishments.

I walked in and headed straight for the sale bin. Smack dab in front was Patrick Süskind's Perfume! My boyfriend had mentioned it a long time ago, and it is also the favorite book of my best friend in Metz, so it had been on my shopping list. I snapped it up.

That night, I discovered it would be an almost impossible read for me. Much of the vocabulary was beyond my comprehension. I had to first read a sentence for gist, translate the words I didn't know, reread it, then read the whole paragraph again after following that sequence for every sentence ... and then re-translate some of the words I'd forgotten! After one hour, I had read and understood five paragraphs.

But what a sensual five paragraphs! Laden with nouns and adjectives, I could smell 18th century Paris from the safety of my 20th century Metz apartment! I was excited! And disappointed, as I knew I would have to read the English version to fully understand it.

As I prepared to move back to California, I discovered a new used bookstore had opened in my hometown a few doors down from what used to be my parent's pharmacy. My first week back, I walked into B Street Books. The man behind the counter asked if he could help me find anything.

"I'm looking for Patrick Süskind's Perfume."

And a voice behind one of the shelves said "It just so happens I have a copy of it in my hand!"

Well, that was easy! My French is better now, so I am reading a paragraph in French first, then reading the English version to see what I missed and using the French-English dictionary for the words I can't figure out. The going is still slow, but it is a little faster than before. I wonder what everyone else is reading this summer...