Eau De Eternity

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In a review of Mandy Aftel’s new book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent, Emily Gould reveals her affinity for perfume. The book, she suggests, “makes a person wearing perfume feel connected to every human in every era who has ever done so”:

A spritz of L’Artisan Parfumeur: Passage d’Enfer in the morning not only becomes a way of “decorating the day,” as perfume critic Tania Sanchez memorably wrote, it also gives you the sense that you have something in common with the ancient Egyptians, who packed frankincense inside the corpses they embalmed. Jars of unguents taken from these tombs, according to Aftel, have retained their fragrance. If you can still smell, three thousand years later, what Egyptians wanted to smell like in the afterlife, that’s a kind of afterlife in and of itself. Aftel also points to biblical descriptions of the uses of incense and the specific instructions for compounding it given to Moses by God. It’s easy to forget, as you light a stick of incense to mitigate the smell of a litter box, a bong, or a neighbor’s cooking, that smoke rising toward the skies once was used to communicate messages to heaven.

(Photo of incense and candles at Yangon’s ancient Shwedagon Pagoda by William)