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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and Passage d’Enfer by L’Artisan Parfumeur

Master and Margarita. Set in 1930s Moscow, this is a satirical tale of good and evil, of power and corruption, and of human weakness and the strength of love. The cast includes the Devil himself, his posse that contains, among others, a beautiful naked witch Hella and a large vodka-drinking, pistol toting, black cat Behemoth; the beautiful Margarita, and a writer known as The Master. These characters are joined by Pontius Pilate and Yeshua (Jesus Christ) in an incredibly entertaining, imaginative, bizarre and yet brutally realistic parable. The Devil (Woland) and his gang wreck havoc in Moscow but in the end bring peace to two tragic lovers, Master and his Margarita. And if you ask Woland, just like Faust asked Mephistopheles, who is he after all, he will undoubtedly reply, that he is “part of the power which forever wills evil and forever works good.”

Passage d’Enfer. The overall impression is that of a "gray" scent, gray and melancholy, but also strangely comforting. This is my scent of choice on a gloomy rainy day, when I am stressed or sad. It brings me strange peace. A beautiful passage from Master and Margarita might illustrate that odd lightness of heart: “Gods, my gods! How sad the earth is at eventide! How mysterious are the mists over the swamps. Anyone who has wandered in these mists, who has suffered a great deal before death, or flown above the earth, bearing a burden beyond his strength knows this. Someone who is exhausted knows this. And without regret he forsakes the mists of the earth, its swamps and rivers, and sinks into the arms of death with a light heart, knowing that death alone…”

The scent does not evoke an image of an inside of a church, as most incense based scents do' what I do imagine is some otherworldly eternal creature perched on top of a tall gray cathedral (“With his sharp chin resting on his fist and one leg folded beneath him Woland sat hunched on the taboret, staring fixedly at the vast assortment of huge buildings, palaces, and shacks condemned to destruction”), surveying us mortals with disdainful pity, because he has seen it all so many times and knows that youth passes, hearta break, life ends and all our earthly pursuits are nothing but vain and clutching at the wind... Wearing Passage d'Enfer puts me in a mood to read Ecclesiastes. Or Bulgakov.

The wonderful photo is by Luciano Duse and is called The Protector of the City.


Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I adore Passage d'Enfer, and find it one of the least melancholy of the incense heavy fragrances I own. It also layers beautifully, being so light on its own, and have worn it with many other light L'Artisan florals. I do wish they would issue this in one of the L'Artisan "Intense" versions!

11:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

R., the DO need an intense version. Funny how different our perceptions are. I put it on and immediately "life is vain and clutching at the wind" :-)

11:46 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

V., spasibo! Passage captures the melancholy side of Master and Margarita that I love so much. If I had to choose a scent for Master-Margarita-love storyline, it would probably have been Parfum Sacre...

12:25 PM EDT  
Blogger katiedid said...

Wondeful amalgam of scent and literature... very nicely done :)

12:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Many thanks, K.! *pleased as punch*

12:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"After all" sighed Narcissus the hunchback "on me it looks good". I Created by Olivia Giacobetti in 1999. The original offices of LArtisan Parfumeur are on a street called Passage dEnfer in Paris. So its a kind of double entendre. It has been called their signature scent mainly because of this fact.

It is what one would smell like if one had a depressing journey through hell. Black pepper-grey and of the strangely peaceful melancholy madness of poets and artists. It is a gloomy scent for a rainy day when one is stressed It brings on a fantastically tempting perverse sense of place Much like having sex fantasies in church

How sad the Earth is at eventide! How mysterious are the mists

over the swamps, who has suffered a great deal before death, or

flown above the Earth, bearing a burden beyond his strength

knows this. Someone who is exhausted knows this.

And without regret he forsakes the mists of the Earth, its swamps

and rivers, and sinks into the arms of death with a light heart,

knowing that death alone II

Transparently shape-shifting and morally complex due to a kaleidoscopic quality of lily fading to a dark smoky musk with soft light cedar notes of aloe-wood (landing on top of one another instead of progressing sequentially), reversing upon itself after a few hours, making it mysterious yet eminently wearable.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-cappd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. III

It is the quintessential literary scent of the dying, church-going and cemetery-visiting class whose patrons stick out yet like a bad smell at weddings and funerals because they know the words to all the hymns. Smelling of dry mildew in old books. Old libraries and antiquarian bookshops full of medieval MSs and renaissance folios

Home, home, home, to my woman as the red

Darkens from a fresh blood to a dried.

Home, home to my woman, home to bed

Where opposites seem sometimes unified.

The frankincense and myrrh beckon with an exotic Bite Me quality, oriental and ancient, yet familiar and less sharp because of the lily overtones.

Vanity of vanities saith the Preacher Vanity of vanities; all is vanity. IV It has a funny characteristic of the feelings one gets of timelessness and eternity when at a funeral of the sort that Tennyson wrote about in Cleopatras Needle (beside the Thames):

Here, I stood in On beside the flow

Of sacred Nile, 3000 years ago!

- A Pharaoh, kingliest of his kingly race

First shaped, and carved, and set me in my place.

A Caesar of a punier dynasty

Thence haled me toward the Mediterranean sea,

Whence your own citizens, for their own renown,

Through strange seas drew me to your monster town.

I have seen the 4 great empires disappear.

I was when London was not. I am here.

It has been describes as the patron scent of Catholicism With its overall base and dry-down effect of church incense Invoking stones in very old European churches and castles and the stench of death in catacombs. Though our world causes the stones to be squeezed back into our eyes A crush of diamonds, / Incredibly bright as a crush of tears.

It has been said to arouse a sensation of quite contemplative musings in churchyards or moments spent in church pews. Of Galatean marble statues and Victorian petticoats One can almost hear the rustling as they exit church. Such feelings are above and beyond gender and so the scent is unisexual!

I Auden, W. H. The Dyers Hand. (Faber & Faber, 1962).

II Bulgakov, Mihail. The Master & Margarita.

III Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. (1611).

IV The Holy Bible. Ecclesiastes 1. 2. (King James Authorised Version).

4:08 PM EDT  

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