The plague

Where are the scents of yesterday? Entire countries have lost their distinctive smell

Smell is the oldest sense. We owe our existence to it. The moment you start to talk about smell, things explode in a shimmering, chaotic starburst of epistemological and ontological complication. It is involuntary; we have no noselids. Smell stays switched on in our sleep: to inspire is to smell. It has a bigger ratio of genes than any system in any species. Yet it remains almost unspoken of. The existence of smell — either as verb or noun — seems a guilty secret. Mr Justice Caulfield, in Jeffrey Archer’s 1987 libel action against the Star, would have caused no comment had he suggested that Mary Archer had ‘elegance’. But