A review of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Nausea’

“Existence is not something which allows itself to be thought of from a distance; it has to invade you suddenly, pounce upon you, weigh heavily on your heart like a huge motionless animal – or else there is nothing left at all.”
(John-Paul Sartre, Nausea)

I would love to try to review this book but quite frankly I have no idea what the hell was going on in it. It took me about 2 weeks to get through the 250 pages. Written by a famous French author and dealing with big long fancy things such as ‘existentialism‘ I thought I would come out the other end of this book a higher being. Well I didn’t. For a finish, I found it so boring and just pointless that I only had 2 pages left to finish it, 2 pages!!! and I couldn’t manage to struggle through and get it over with. I finished it the following night not that it really made any difference.

On a more serious note after my little rant, I was genuinely really looking forward to reading this as most classics have earned the title for a reason. The book is written from the point of view of a young troubled author; Antoine Roquentin who is off his head, to put it lightly. The first half of the book wasn’t too bad actually and there were brief moments of really nice description and clever insights. The following are some quotes I picked out that I liked;

Monsieur, it seems to me that you could define adventure as an event which is out of the ordinary without being necessarily extraordinary”

I thought of committing suicide. What held me back was the idea that nobody, absolutely nobody would be moved by my death, that I would be even more alone in death than in life”

“Life has a meaning if you choose to give it one”

Another comment I have after reading it is that maybe the book might have lost some of its flow when it was translated into English. The names of the characters and the place-names are all in French and perhaps to a French reader it offered a little bit more ease of reading. In terms of a storyline there was none really. He lives in a little town and walks around the place, goes to the library to work on his book and harps on about this girl called Anny, who it turns out is crazy too. Every now and again when his thoughts go into overdrive, he experiences this ‘nausea’. I’m not really sure what it is, to me it sounded like something along the lines of a panic attack.

To sum up… I read to relax and let my imagination wander, I like to look forward to my book when I head to bed. This book annoyed me and quite frankly some parts of it were very disturbing, like really really disturbing. While I’m glad I can say I read it I would never read it again and I definitely wouldn’t be recommending it.

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Filed under Classics

10 responses to “A review of Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘Nausea’

  1. Those are some really great quotes even though the book wasn’t so good. Like your blog, by the way! xo

  2. This is on my list of books to read, and it was suggested as a choice in my book club. Thus, I’m disappointed to hear that you disliked it. I hesitate to read it now.

    • Apologies for the late reply! I felt the same about this book before reading it too, I was really looking forward to it. I’ve been working through the classics for a few years now and haven’t really been disappointed so far. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t though. While I didn’t enjoy it overall I’m still glad that I read it. I think you should give it a go and let me know what you think 🙂

  3. Yeah, I couldn’t get into existentialism through the French guys (for one thing, I didn’t smoke cigarettes and wasn’t already paralyzed with depression, which I hear helps). If you haven’t already, try the plays of Samuel Beckett or Tom Stoppard as another entry point.

  4. Pingback: Existentialism « Earthpages.ca

  5. zorba

    nice review
    I am going to read this book pretty soon ..

    I would like to hear your review on albert camus The stranger Which a small book has conveys the existentialist philophy in a subtle way

  6. Pingback: Session 3 | Chelsea Arts Book Group

  7. Trish

    Reading this book in French for an intermediate French course.This is paired with Proust. i hate my life.
    Your review made me feel better, thank you.

  8. I have read most of the ‘boring books’, such as Ulysses, the Magic Mountain. But this is the most boring one of all boring books. This is not even a book. I can not understand why it was so popular in France last century. But anyhow, I will finish this book as a good habbit. Nice review!

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