“Nausea” (French “La Nausée”) is a philosophic novel and the most famous work by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. It was published in 1938 and became the lead work of the philosophy of existentialism.
The novel describes a few week in the empty life of Antoine Roqueting who is haunted by feeling of nausea and the fear of existence. The plot is settled in Bouville. The main characters are Antoine Roquetin, Self-Taught Man (his real name is Ogier P.) and Anny.
The work “Nausea” is written like Antoine’s diary. His conscious is the main aspect of this novel filled with philosophic and essayistic paragraphs. The novel almost has no plot and revolves around the question of existence, life meaning, freedom, human will and the world’s indifference towards an individual.
The novel became an inspiration for many other authors.
Antoine Roquetin has a diary and travels Asia, Africa, and Europe. He also took part in many archaeological expeditions in India. Then he met Anny and had a relationship with her but he hadn’t seen her for a few years.
He had no will or desire to travel so he decided to stick around in a city named Bouville. Antoine wanted to finish his historic study about marquis de Rollebon, a man who lived in the 18th century and used to travel a lot. Then he was involved in a sexual relationship with Francoise, owner of a café.
In 1932 during winter a strange feeling of vagueness, emptiness and meaningless took over him and he named the mixture of those feelings nausea. In the beginning, the feeling would just come and go and it drove Antoine crazy. He linked the feeling to some objects so it was hard to him to lift a piece of paper or a rock sometimes.
He could defeat nausea by listening to jazz music because its simplicity brought him back to the outside world. Soon he started analyzing the state that took over him every now and then. The world he had experienced lost all reasons to exist.
Antoine realized that things weren’t connected to divine force and that everything can exist out of law and order. Also, everything can become something else.
Antoine lived a lonely life and the people who stayed in touch with him had a completely different vision of the world than him. He couldn’t connect to anyone and he always felt alienated from everyone who based their principles on duty and kindness.
He criticized the higher class of that small town by observing statues and pictures of important officials. He despised their existence. Antoine believed that a caricature that mocked him existed as well and that it was called Self-Taught Man. He is an official who spent his days reading books in an alphabetic order. He believed that by doing so his knowledge will be absolute. He wanted to rule the culture but after 7 years he managed to come to the letter L and in the meantime he neglected his life. He lived from quotes and thought said by others and he was unable to make anything on his own.
The only person capable of bringing some optimism into Antoine’s life was Anny, his lover. He thought that nausea would go away if she came back to him and while he thought about her a letter from Anny arrived. She suggested that the two of them should meet in Paris in a couple of days.
Antoine said yes to the meeting. Anny, while they were in a relationship, always expressed her emotions in a theatrically way. She believed that everything in life happens by small signs forming a bigger situation and that it was up to people to make ideal moments out of that situation. Anny never quite said what those moments are and Antoine never asked.
Anny was a middle aged woman now and she didn’t believe in those moments anymore. Her changes looked like nausea but neither Anny nor Antoine saw changes in each other but only in themselves.
Their meeting didn’t go well as planned. Nothing that Antoine expected happened. Anny was back with a man who meant nothing to her. In the meaningless of her life, she had found hope in jazz music.
Antoine decided to quit his research and leave Bouville. He went to the café one last. He also wanted to say goodbye to Self-Taught Man and he found him trying to seduce a boy in a library. He provoked anger and expulsion from the society.
While waiting for a train to Paris he listened to his favorite song one last time. He experienced the music as purification and asked himself if art could be his salvation.
“Nausea” is a completely philosophic novel. All the beliefs, methods, and opinions are generated in the head and thoughts of the main character. The adventurer and historian Antoine Roquetin after an exciting life writes his monograph. He wrote down his opinions and observations that in the end sum up to the feeling of nausea.
The novel doesn’t have a big plot and is mostly based on descriptions, conversations, and observations. Through all that Antoine’s anxiety increases to the point in which he realizes that human’s existence is completely accidental and has no deeper purpose. A human has the liberty to do whatever he wants with his life.
In the end, Antoine, a man who led his life according to the rules, decides to change it.
Main Characters: Antoine Roquetin, Self-Taught Man, Anny
Antoine Roquetin – the main character. There aren’t many information about him and everything we find out emerges from the description of his life events. He lives a lonely life, doesn’t give or receive – he just exists. Out of his state of mind rises nausea. He feels repulsion towards everything and alienates himself from everyone. He has a panic fear of life and everyday things. In the end, jazz music appears and helps him to fight with life and find its meaning. The author offers him help by giving him music but it’s still unclear whether he accepted it.
Author: Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre Biography
Jean-Paul Sartre was born on June 21st, 1905 in Paris. He had only 15 months when his father died so his grandfather, Charles Schweizer raised him. He introduced him to the classic literature at a young age. Sartre studied at the center of all French intellectuals of that age, in École Normale Supérieureu in Paris. He was interested in philosophy and ideas of Kant, Hegel etc.
In 1929 he met an intellectual Simone de Beauvoir and starts a friendship and an open relationship with her. Sartre wrote about the never-ending confrontation between the spirit wrecking conformism and authentic living.
In 1938 he wrote his most famous novel “Nausea” which served as the manifest of the existentialist philosophy. He believed that our ideas were the results of real-life experiences and that novel and plays which describe such experiences are worth just as much as the philosophic essays used to elaborate philosophic ideas. He died on April 15th, 1980 in Paris.
His most famous works are: “Being and Nothingness”, “Anti-Semite and Jew”, “Situations I”, “Situations II”, “Situations III”, “Situations IV, V, VI”, “The Age of Reason”, “Dirty Hands”, “The Devil and the Good Lord”, “The Respectful Prostitute”,