books and scents: 3 posts

My Favorite Childhood Book

A few days ago I was going through some old photos when I came across this image of my mother and me taken in our apartment in Kyiv. I must have been 5-6 years old and I still remember this photo session. My father’s friend Petya, a professional photographer, came over to take photos of our family and had us pose in different ways. For some reason, I didn’t like posing the way Petya suggested, so my mother gave me a book and the result was this photograph.

The moment I picked up the photo, I could imagine the heft of that book, its shiny green cover and the colorful drawings of plants. I recalled that it was a book of medicinal plants. It used to be one of my favorite books to leaf through, and  when I learned to read, to lose myself in its descriptions of plants, their aromas and healing properties. The more I thought about the book, the more my later fascination with flowers and fragrances made sense.

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À rebours (Against Nature) by Joris-Karl Huysmans : Scents in Books

“From black-rimmed plates they ate turtle soup and eaten Russian rye bread, ripe Turkish olives, caviar, salted mullet-roe, smoked Frankfurt black puddings, game in gravies the colour of liquorice and boot-blacking truffled sauces, chocolate caramel creams, plum puddings, nectarines, preserved fruits, mulberries and heart-cherries; from dark coloured glasses they drank the wines of Limagne and Rousillon, of Tenedoes, Val de Peñas and Oporto, and, after the coffee and the walnut cordial they enjoyed kvass, porters and stouts.”

― Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against Nature

His writing inspired Oscar Wilde—and corrupted Dorian Gray. As an art critic, he discovered Degas and Odilon Redon. Joris-Karl Huysmans (1848-1907) was one of the most prominent stars of the European art scene at the end of the 19th century, and yet he remains little known to the general public. However, two events this year are putting Huysmans into the spotlight. First, the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, published by Gallimard, has added his works to their prestigious collection of classics. Second, Musée d’Orsay will hold an exhibition from 26th November 2019 to 1st March 2020 devoted to Huysmans’s contributions to 20th century aesthetics.

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How Books Smell : My New Christmas Themed Article in Oh Comely Magazine

This month I have an article titled How Books Smell in the mid-winter issue of Oh Comely. Oh Comely is a magazine covering food, recipes, film, fashion, music, art and culture. It’s based in the UK and you can subscribe or buy any of its six yearly issues online at the Oh Comely store, or in shops all over the UK and internationally (here is the stocklists). It’s an independent magazine with a creative and refreshing approach to art, culture and lifestyle topics, and I think that many of those who read Bois de Jasmin will enjoy it too. Its latest issues included stories on poignant prose, Victorian women, dressing like your favorite literary heroine, and the art of keeping secrets.

My article is on the topic that’s close to my heart–books and scents. I explore the sensory pleasures of reading and explain how I enhance it by visualizing scents in my favorite books. The two authors who guide me are Marcel Proust and Nikolai Gogol. The article also features incense inflected hawthorns, moon-stealing devils, Christmas revelry, and saffron brandy. I hope that you will like it.

The cover of Oh Comely 2017 winter issue.

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