Nausea is a book. I know it, I can feel it in my hands. While looking at it, I see all the books I have known or read about, a cascade of grimoires, incunabulae, scrolls, rune stones, wax tablets. The fact that it is a paperback, published by such-and-such a company, written in English- these are there, but as I look on it, I feel a monstrous wave of existence bursting all those petty facts and crashing over me, flooding my senses despite my struggles against it. I am drowning in La Nausée, sucking it into my lungs, forced back head over heels in its currents. But suddenly, I see a man, this Sartre, scribbling in cafes in Le Havre, between classes, and trying to write this in the style of the novel is getting old, so I’m going to stop.
Nausea takes stream of consciousness and turns it on its head. Not only is Roquentin recording everything he sees and things as they happen, but he frequently sees through the whatness of those things, if you will, to the core of them, the existence. This is the nausea, the realization that everything exists and it is only entirely accidental. I’m glossing over a lot of this because it’s a pain to go through Roquentin’s journey step by step (that is what the book is for, so stop trying to use me to cheat on your philosophy paper!). It is uniquely French the way Breathless is French, in the sense that what’s really happening is a lot of sitting around and smoking (this is not a bad thing). Nausea is a vehicle for Sartre’s brand of existentialism, so if you got sick of Atlas Shrugged because of the long speechifying and not because Ayn Rand hated poor people, this probably isn’t the book for you (again, I will talk about Ayn Rand and existentialism at a later time.). Eh. I am tired. This is going up because I’m about to click the publish button.