Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre


This is the third of the great existential novels I have read so far this year, and is easily my favourite. It is beautifully written, with real characters the reader can identify with, and contains in a simple story the outline and mood of the existentialist attitude.

The story follows writer Antoine Roquentin through a period of his life in which he questions the validity and authenticity of all he comes across. It is a comment on love, art, ageing, friendship and society as distinct from the individual. It highlights the absurdities of social custom that face us in our everyday lives, and it lets us right into the perspective of a man alone but for his thoughts and his work.

I found the scene in which the protagonist debates (in his mind at least) over dinner with a devout humanist particularly compelling. The conversation highlights the key differences between the two stances, and forces the reader to consider his own thoughts on some specific aspects of the argument. Is a misanthrope actually a form of humanist? Must you know the particular instance of a thing, not just the general qualities of its being, in order to love it? Why would a writer write if not for other people to read? Continue reading “Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre”

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