Now your soap can smell like a book

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iol pic bp Wolfgang Lederhaas AFP Former Philosophy teacher and now soap boiler Wolfgang Lederhaas presents his soap creations on August 9, 2012 in Vienna.

The ears can delight in the music and words of an opera and the eyes can admire the spectacle on stage, but what about the other senses, not least smell? Soap may be the answer, says Wolfgang Lederhaas.

This Austrian philosophy professor gave up a successful academic career to set up in 2011 a cosmetics firm that, among other things, turns literature, music and visual arts into something you can touch, sniff - and wash your hands with.

Retailing at around 80 euros ($100) in smaller Austrian bookshops, pharmacies and concept stores is his first collection: a sleek grey box of six bars, each with the “aroma” and “colour” of a work of German literature.

“The cosmetics industry is often very superficial ... I wanted to delve a little deeper and give more to customers,” the 36-year-old told AFP at his company's sweet-smelling workshop in Vienna.

“Literature is not just about reading, it's about aesthetics. I wanted to make something tangible out of it, so that people can breathe it in ... It's about enhancing mundane activities with emotions, with positive energy.”

The box set includes soap versions of novels from the 17th and 18th centuries such as “Undine” by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque, “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” by Novalis - Lederhaas's idol - and “Hyperion” by Friedrich Hoelderlin.

io, pic soap man Former Philosophy teacher and now soap boiler Wolfgang Lederhaas presents his soap creations in Vienna. AFP

“Basically, just like for normal soap, I put all the ingredients into a pot, stir it and make soap out of,” Lederhaas explains enthusiastically.

“Everything I know about a particular book makes it into the pot - all the feelings in the novel, the colours, the herbs, the plants that are mentioned, and so on. Everything that somehow inspires me, everything that gives me a clue.”

Since “Hyperion” takes place in Greece, for example, the soap contains notes of olive oil and laurel, while for his soap of Mozart's opera “The Magic Flute,” roses and cedar - both mentioned in the libretto - are evident.

“Of course, putting all this in doesn't mean that it smells nice or works, it takes a lot more than that. The secret is to add something to make sure it smells good,” Lederhaas says.

Colour, too, is vital, as is the use of natural ingredients, preferably organic and locally sourced. For “The Magic Flute”, for example, the soap had to be “bright and orange, not shining yellow but orange,” he says.

“That was the starting point,” he says, taking a chunk of soap off the shelf and offering it around to smell. “It has lots of citrus fruit notes - lemon, orange, lime, mandarin, grapefruit and so on.”

Coming from humble, rural origins - there was no literature or Mozart when he was growing up, he says - Lederhaas says his family thought he was mad to give up his job heading a department at the prestigious Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. - AFP

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