Nirvana's song "Scentless Apprentice" is based on the book "Perfume" by Patrick Süskind. This book was one of Kurt's favorite books. Apparently, he had started reading it for the second time by Autumn 1993. Kurt managed to re-write the whole book into thirteen short lines. Remember to read the book before you try to analyze what Kurt is singing about. The meaning of all of the lines in the song can be found in the book.
The following intepretation was done by myself. Of course, I am not one hundred percent sure if all of it is correct, but I have done my best and hopefully this is of some use. Please support Patrick Süskind by buying his books, because they are really worth reading.
Like most babies smell like butter
His smell smelled like no others
Grenouille, the person the book is about, was born without a normal human scent. The priest featured in the beginning of the book points out that all babies are born with a scent of butter, and because Grenouille does not have this scent, he is a creature of the devil. Not until his mid-twenties did Grenouille get accepted as a normal human being that people would notice, when he made up his own human-scent perfume.
He was born scentless and senseless
He was born in a scentless apprentice
Grenouille did not have a human scent, nor did he have normal human senses. His smell was excellent and his vision was terrible, so as he grew up he would navigate himself by the use of his nose, usually with his eyes closed, as they were of no help for him. Grenouille was born in a fish hut, and the reason he did not get normal senses was because his mother tried to kill him as soon as he was born. She let him lie among raw fish and shit in the hut to die, and left him. Neighbors heard his screams, though, and his mother was soon arrested and sentenced to death penalty.
Go away - get away, get away, get a-way
Grenouille could not stand the human scent because of his ultra-sensitive nose. So he could not stand being around other human beings. This is also one of a few personal lines from Kurt. The media and mainstream rock world fucked him over so many times he just wanted them to stay away from him, his family and his band.
Every wet nurse refused to feed him
Babies without a mother to breast-feed them were given to other women for them to feed them. Those women got paid for their work, and some even lived off of feeding other people's babies. Grenouille went through several of these, but every one of them passed him on to the next 'breast-mother' because he was greedy and drank all the milk. Which meant there was no milk left for the rest of the babies, and the 'breast-mothers' would only get paid for one baby.
Electrolytes smell like semen
With his unique nose, Grenouille noticed how men stunk of sweat and semen.
I promise not to sell your perfumed secrets
When Grenouille left perfume-maker Baldini, who had gotten rich off of Grenouille's unique skills when it came to making perfumes, he had to promise never to tell anyone about any of the perfume formulas. This did not bother Grenouille, as he was full of new formulas. Right after Grenouille had left Baldini's life, Baldini died.
There are several formulas for pressing flowers
I lie in the soil and fertilize mushrooms
At first, Grenouille though fertilizing was the only way to press flowers and get their scent. When he discovered the endless formulas to get the scent out of an item, he was amazed, and spent all night long trying to discover new methods. He would sit up all night long trying to get the scent out of every item he could find, using all sorts of methods.
Leaking out fumes are made into perfume
Grenouille did not like the fact that some of the scent leaked out and he could not catch all of it. But as he practiced, he learned how to make all the fumes into perfume.
You can't fire me because I quit
Throw me in the fire and I won't throw a fit
Grenouille was never fired from a job, he simply quit and left the town without letting anyone know, most likely with a catastrophe hitting the town he had just left a matter of days later. Grenouille did not have any senses, he could do anything without getting more pain than what he already had. The people he worked for told him to do horrible work, and Grenouille did it without making a scene out of it.
This is also personal lines from Kurt. He used to quit jobs without letting anyone know about if, just stop showing up, when he was young. The media invaded Kurt and Courtney's lives. They 'threw him in the fire.' But there was nothing he could do to get back at them, so he 'couldn't throw a fit' at them for doing what they did.
"Perfume" is an excellent book. I am not saying because Kurt liked it, but because it really is an excellent book. By the time I write this, I have read the book all the way through five times. Anyone who have not read this classic already, should do so as soon as possible.
Patrick Süskind has also released a couple of other books. They are not as great as Perfume, but they are also classic books everyone should have read. "Perfume" was released in 1986, and created quite a fuzz because of its content.
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