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Nausea is both the story of the troubled life of a young writer, Antoine Roquentin, and an exposition of one of the most influential and significant philosophical attitudes of modern times – existentialism. The book chronicles his struggle with the realization that he is an entirely free agent in a world devoid of meaning; a world in which he must find his own purpose and then take total responsibility for his choices. A seminal work of contemporary literary philosophy, Nausea evokes and examines the dizzying angst that can come from simply trying to live.
About The Author
Jean-Paul Sartre – one of the best-known and most discussed
modern French writers and thinkers – was born in Paris in 1905. His
friendship with Simone de Beauvoir, whom he met while studying
philosophy at the Sorbonne, stretched over fifty years, until his death
in 1980. He is perhaps best remembered as the founder of French
existentialism and as a man of passion, fighting for what he believed
in. Among his best known works are La Nausee (1938), Les
Mouches (1943), Huis clos (1944) and the trilogy Les
Chemins de la liberté; published in Penguin as The Age
of Reason, The Reprieve and The Iron in the Soul.
The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir 1926-1939
is also published by Penguin.
Monday, 29January 1932
SOMETHING has happened to me: I can't doubt that any more. It came
as an illness does, not like an ordinary certainty, not like
anything obvious. It installed itself cunningly, little by little;
I felt a little strange, a little awkward, and that was all. Once it
was established, it didn't move any more, it lay lowand I was
able to persuade myself that there was nothing wrong with me, that it
was a false alarm. And now it has started blossoming.
I don't think the profession of historian fits a man for
psychological analysis. In our work, we have to deal only with simple
feelings to which we give generic names such as Ambition and Interest.
Yet if I had an iota of selfknowledge, now is the time when I
ought to use it.
There is something new, for example, about my hands, a certain way
of picking up my pipe or my fork. Or else it is the fork which now has
a certain way of getting itself picked up, I don't know. Just now, when
I was on the point of coming into my room, I stopped short because I
felt in my hand a cold object which attracted my attention by means of
a sort of personality. I opened my hand and looked: I was simply
holding the doorknob. This morning, at the library, when the
Autodidact· came to say good-morning to me, it took me ten
seconds to recognize him. I saw an unknown face which was barely a
face. And then there was his hand, like a fat maggot in my hand. I let
go of it straight away and the arm fell back limply.
In the streets too there are a great many suspicious noises to be
So a change has taken place in the course of these last few weeks.
But where? It's an abstract change which settles on nothing. Is it I
who has changed? If it isn't I, then it's this room, this town, this
nature; I must choose.
I think it's I who has changed: that's the simplest solution,
also the most unpleasant. But I have to admit that I am subject to
these sudden transformations. The thing is that I very rarely think;
consequendy a host of little metamorphoses accumulate in me
without my noticing it, and then, one fine day, a positive revolution
takes place. That is what has given my life this halting, incoherent
aspect. When I left France, for example, there were a lot of people who
said I had gone off on a sudden impulse. And when I returned
unexpectedly after six years of travelling, they might well have
spoken of a sudden impulse once more. I can see myself again with
Mercier in the office of that French official who resigned last year
after the Petrou business. Mercier was going to Bengal with an
archaeological expedition. I had always wanted to go to Bengal, and he
urged me to go with him. At present, I wonder why. I imagine that he
didn't feel too sure of Portal and that he was counting on me to keep
an eye on him. I could see no reason to refuse. And even if, at the
time, I had guessed at that little scheme with regard to Portal, that
would have been another reason for accepting enthusiastically. Well, I
was paralysed, I couldn't say a word. I was staring at a little Khmer
statuette on a card-table next to a telephone. I felt as if I were full
of lymph or warm milk.
With an angelic patience: which concealed a slight irritation,
Mercier was saying to me:
'You see, I have to be certain from the official point of view. I
know that you'll end up by saying yes, so you might as well accept
He has a reddish-black beard, heavily scented. At every movement of
his head I got a whiff of perfume. And then, all of a sudden, I awoke
from a sleep which had lasted six years.
The statue struck me as stupid and unattractive and I felt that I
was terribly bored. I couldn't understand why I was in Indo-China. What
was I doing there? Why was I talking to those people? Why was I dressed
so oddly? My passion was dead. For years it had submerged me and swept
me along; now I felt empty. But that wasn't the worst of it:
installed in front of me with a sort of indolence there was a
voluminous, insipid idea. I don't know exactly what it was, but it
sickened me so much that I couldn't look at it. All that was mixed up
for me with the perfume of Mercier's beard.
I pulled myself together, convulsed with anger against him, and
'Thank you, but I think I've done enough travelling: I must go back
to France now.'
Two days later I took the boat for Marseille.
If I am not mistaken, and if all the signs which are piling up are
indications of a fresh upheaval in my life, well then, I am frightened.
It isn't that my life is rich or weighty or precious, but I'm afraid of
what is going to be born and take hold of me and carry me off -I wonder
where? Shall I have to go away again, leaving everything behind -my
research, my book? Shall I awake in a few months, a few years,
exhausted, disappointed, in the midst of fresh ruins? I should
like to understand myself properly before it is too late.
ISBN: 9780141194844 ISBN-10: 0141194847 Series: Popular Penguins Ser. Audience:
For Ages: 18+ years old Format:
Number Of Pages: 252 Published: 28th June 2010 Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd Country of Publication: GB Dimensions (cm): 17.9 x 11.0
Weight (kg): 0.16
Edition Number: 1