Warning: Do not read this book if you are depressed.
Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogs his every feeling and sensation about the world and people around him. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which “spread at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time, the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain.”
Roquentin’s efforts to try and come to terms with his life, his philosophical and psychological struggles, give Sartre the opportunity to dramatize the tenets of his Existentialist creed.
I happened to find Nausea last year nestled in a pile of books unread for a long time in my college library. A layer of dust had settled on it, signifying how no one had read it for quite a long time. Brushing the dust off, I sat down on an adjacent chair and flipped it open. What came next was a shock- is this a book about my life? I am sure whoever reads Nausea will feel the same because a sense of existentialism fills all of our lives whether we are conscious of it or not. Existentialism, according to Wikipedia is a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
I want to leave, to go somewhere where I should be really in my place, where I would fit in… but my place is nowhere; I am unwanted.
Written in a diary-like format, Nausea is not your typical existentialist novel. There are moments in this book when you laugh out loud at the observations Sartre portrays of the strange world around him. I enjoyed his opinions and observations about sexual relationships as well, and honestly, they were beyond my expectations. The sum of it is this, that life itself is pretty meaningless. Our narrator’s loneliness, his realizations are ours as well, and it doesn’t take you much time before you understand that this book is unforgettable. Nausea seeps into your mind while reading this book, and makes you extremely uneasy. There are numerous quotes in this book which I am going to carry with me forever, and my favourite few will be:
People who live in society have learned how to see themselves, in mirrors, as they appear to their friends. I have no friends: is that why my flesh is so naked? I am alone in the midst of these happy, reasonable voices. All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together. Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.
I personally did not enjoy reading the book, because such books are not meant to be read for enjoying. You read these books to reflect, think and undergo an internal change. Nausea lives up to its title- it makes you nauseous. Highly recommended to anyone who wishes to get started with philosophical novels or Sartre in general.