Friday, 15 July 2011
Sweet Fetish - Part II: ‘Traversée du Bosphore’ by Bertrand Duchaufour
The bewitching Traversée du Bosphore is a simulacrum of softness and deception. Leather beneath the rose. Sugar cast across thorns. Nominally a portrait of Istanbul, the ancient and historical heart of the Ottoman Empire. A day in notes, sketched portraits: glimpses of tulips in the city’s parks, apple fritters bubbling in syrup, echoes of Istanbul’s leather trade, the famous Hazer Baba, Turkey’s apple tea, and of course, loukoum, or Turkish delight, soft and unctuous, flavoured with rosewater or mastic and rolled in powdered sugar. Now I love loukoum, only the rose kind mind, no messing about with pistachio and other bits of postmodern nut and flavouring nonsense. Living in Iran as a child I used to eat it by ice cold pools while adults cracked pistachios, dropping the shells into smutty ashtrays.
I think this olfactory portrait of the world’s most mysterious cities is one of Duchaufour’s finest creations. Everything fits together beautifully, layers of colour and texture to produce an overall effect of fur, leather and sugar; something a little unsettling, the fetish beneath convention. I imagine a room, hung with tapestries, red and gold, a scent of shattered sugar in the air, a drifting, like snow across the senses. Fur and silk beneath the fingers, a low light. Then a door to an antechamber, similar but also different, darker; a whiff of leather, a swirl of darkness, musks and roses crushed underfoot, the softest calfskin glove dipped in sugar dust and dragged across my lips with the faintest trace of lipstick. I feel drugged, swooning into the muscular arms of musks and amber.
Bonfire night toffee apples and Turkish delight. Hidden desires and fetish dreams. It is the ravishing leather and sugar concoction that captures me every time I put it on....and the apple too, that faded, weird woody apple note from crates of winter stored apples, sweet and slightly alcoholic. The tulip note is unsettling as the scent dries down, rubbery and sexual, with that slightly squeaky texture the flowers have as you wrestle them into vases. It is almost the look of them you can detect in Traversée du Bosphore, not their scent. As it finally fades away after hours on the skin, it feels like night falling in a mythical Istanbul, empty streets, echoing footsteps, throwing up sugar dust into the soft falling night. Sky filled with shadowed musks and crumbled rose. It is an elegiac fragrance; I imagine myself lost just for a while in Istanbul, looking back over my shoulder at something beautiful, but knowing it has already slipped away into the night.