Reader's Encyclopedia

Nausea (La Nausée, 1938; translated 1965)

A novel by Jean-Paul Sartre, also translated (1948) as The Diary of Antoine Roquentin. The historian Roquentin records the process of his "nausea," a violent feeling of disgust inspired by the overwhelming fact that things and people cannot help existing, and yet there is "absolutely no reason for existing." Rejecting concepts of a cosmic purpose or of human progress as illusions, he is horrified by the absurdity of human life and the ugliness of its pretenses. Anny, his former mistress, who returns to him, confesses similarly that she no longer experiences "perfect moments," which she used to feel when the opportunity offered by a "privileged situation" had been harmoniously completed. When she leaves him again, Roquentin discovers that, because there is no more reason to live, he is free -- despite the deathlike loneliness of this freedom. He concludes that the only possible escape from the oppressiveness of the accident of existence is through the act of creation, and he contemplates writing a book so beautiful that he can accept himself.

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