KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 12: Summer 2019
Ekphrastic CNF/  
Prose Poem: 295 words [R]

Cognoscenti: Edmond Roudnitska

by Heidi Czerwiec
Anyone can make a nice smell. The trick is to create
a fragrance that has soul.

—Edmond Roudnitska

Rudnik is Russian for “mine,” and Roudnitska, Ukrainian emigré, mined the world’s fragrant sources to extract their sole scents, their scented souls, scent-signs that combine to create a Transcented Signified, an Ars Parfumica.

Roudnitska thrived on the rude, mining beauty out of barrenness, loveliness from muck, from luck, from lack: “I created Rochas Femme in 1943 during the worst days of the war in a building that had a rubbish dump on one side and a paint factory on the other.” Tinted a toxic orange, it nonetheless smells lush, seductive but cruel—dry wood and the skins of plums, a woman’s skin, a ravishing beauty raised from a razed city out of what remains remained at hand.

Thanks to the income from the phoenix of Femme, he established his private laboratory Art et Parfum in 1946, moved it to a rocky, barren ground, lost on the heights of Grasse near Cabris, transformed in the course of years into a lush garden full of rare trees and flowering plants. There, he composed perfumes for Dior, including Diorissimo (1956), based on lily of the valley, which cannot be extracted; Roudnitska circumvented the scent with synthetics, a master of form.

One Platonic form he kept secret in his cave, his Plutonic treasure, his mine boarded over to warn off all trespassers: Le Parfum de Thérèse, a play between dark animalic notes and bright pepper, melon, and jasmine extracts—shadows that never quite come into the light. During his lifetime, only one woman could wear it: his wife, the eponymous Thérèse.

	So like a man, 
to mark his femme with scent, as if 
	to say she is mine.

—From Heidi Czerwiec’s collection of essays, Fluid States (Pleiades Press, 2019); appears here with permissions from the author and Pleiades Press.

Publisher’s Note:

Epigraph above, and the quotation in the second paragraph, are from an article at the Art et Parfum website: National Geographic, September 1995.

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