Published by Penguin Books on May 12, 1988
Genres: Literary Fiction
Also by this author: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Set in Paris and attracting comparisons with Franz Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe, "The Pigeon" is Patrick Suskind's tense, disturbing follow-up to the bestselling "Perfume". The novella tells the story of a day in the meticulously ordered life of bank security guard, Jonathan Noel, who has been hiding from life since his wife left him for her Tunisian lover. When Jonathan opens his front door on a day he believes will be just like any other, he encounters not the desired empty hallway but an unwelcome, diabolical intruder...
‘At the time the pigeon affair overtook him, unhinging his life from one day to the next, Jonathan Noel, already past fifty, could look back over a good twenty-year period of total uneventfulness and would never have expected anything of importance could ever overtake him again – other than death some day.’
‘The Pigeon’ is an incredibly short story detailing a day (albeit a rather momentous day) in the life of Jonathan Noel. Jonathan leads a secluded and private life as a bank security guard in Paris. He enjoys the life he has made for himself and is perfectly content with it continuing as such for his remaining years; however, on his way to work one morning this all comes collapsing down around him as he discovers a pigeon on his front porch. As soon as the pigeon entered his life, his life literally came crumbling apart in his mind. All of his carefully made plans became as fragile as a snowflake.
‘…but he suddenly no longer saw himself – that is, he no longer saw himself as a part of the world surrounding him. It was rather, as if for a few seconds he were standing far away, outside it, and were regarding this world through the wrong end of a telescope.’
I became an instant fan of Patrick Süskind after stumbling upon his novel ‘Pefume’. It left such a permanent imprint on me and is still one of my favorite books to date. I’m not sure why I never looked into whether or not he had any additional works, but after embarking on my ‘1001 Books to Read Before I Die’ reading challenge I discovered ‘The Pigeon’ as one of those 1001. Overjoyed, I knew I had to have it.
Patrick Süskind’s writing is so thoroughly impressionable that earlier this afternoon I saw a pigeon on the side of the road and had to suppress a shiver as Jonathan’s fears flooded my mind. Mildly amusing, but, I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at a pigeon the same again. His descriptions of the pigeon and Jonathan’s instant anxiety over the pigeon were immediately understandable even though, looking at the bigger picture, it seemed as if he made a fuss over nothing. I’ll admit, I laughed at first because it seemed quite absurd, but as the story progressed you can see now it’s not just the pigeon that affected poor Jonathan in that manner; it was just the catalyst to a series of events that disrupted his painstakingly normal existence.
I’m giving ‘The Pigeon’ 5 stars for one reason and one reason only (and it’s not because it’s as great a story as Perfume because it isn’t): because he’s a truly amazing writer. I will read anything written by Patrick Süskind. It’s just such a shame that there aren’t more novels of his in existence to read.