This is not an easy book to read because there are parallel tracts here of a narrative story and a philosophical debate, which is Jean-Paul Sartre‘s speciality that although working well together challenge the reader in a way a traditional novel wouldn’t.
The best way is to sum up the narrative and the philosophical seperately
Antoine is a historian researching the life story of the Marquis de Rollebon, who played a part in the death of Tsar Paul I and the Napoleonic period. He drifts out of interest with the character and drops the book, visits his old flame, who doesn not renew their relationship and moves back to Paris from the French port of Bouville. The few characters he meets includes a café owner, a woman he casually sleeps with and the Autodidact a figure he meets at the library who is eventually exposed as a peodophile.
Throughout the book Antoine is fighting a battle against existience working out why things don’t conform to his ideals and when there is a clash between how he feels and reality he feels nausea. In the end he has a revalation that he can live with existence developing around him but he opts for a life of virtual solitude not to take part in it all. On the way he meets a humanist and dismisses those arguments and of course disposes of a belief in God.
Is it well written?
Considering what it is able to do the book deserves to be read by anyone who is looking for an example of how a novelist combines more than just a story. The philosophical element here is what makes the nausea so real and so disturbing. Anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable socially will recognise the difficulty he has talking to others and even raising his eyes to look at people some times. The philosophical definetly adds to the depth of the character.
Is it worth reading?
When it comes to looking up lists of French literature often the only book by Sartre’s name is Nausea and so by default it is going to get read by anyone who is studying French lit or looking for some of the most fanous works from that country. Beyond those people it does deserve to be tackled because it is a novel that challenges you to think about what you believe and think and how you fill your days and questioning that has to be worthwhile.
More french literature or more Sartre. I am particularly keen to try and dig up my copy of Age of Reason and purchase the Reprieve and Iron in the Soul, his war-time trilogy. Maybe if I get past the boxes in the attic I will be able to do that.
Version read – penguin twentieth century classics