Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre's maximum novel — and existentialism's key textual content — now brought via James Wood.
Nausea is the tale of Antoine Roquentin, a French author who's horrified at his personal life. In impressionistic, diary shape he ruthlessly catalogs his each feeling and sensation. His innovations culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which "spreads on the backside of the viscous puddle, on the backside of our time — the time of crimson suspenders and damaged chair seats; it's made up of huge, smooth instants, spreading on the side, like an oil stain."
Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature (though he declined to simply accept it), Jean-Paul Sartre — thinker, critic, novelist, and dramatist — holds a place of singular eminence on this planet of French letters. La Nausée, his first and most sensible novel, is a landmark in Existential fiction and a key paintings of the 20 th century.

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Such a primal form, too, although less susceptible to verbalization, is Ishmael's description of the "wide field of leaning spires, wrenched Primal Forms and Macro-Mirrors: Constitutive Metaphors 35 cope-stones, and crosses all adroop" which is "tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can'st see": For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.

Out upon it! " But no sooner does he decide that the wind is "vile" than his thoughts tack, and the wind becomes a "noble and heroic thing" which no man ever Primal Forms and Macro-Mirrors: Constitutive Metaphors 31 conquered: "Run tilting at it, and you but run through it"-a con­ sideration which causes yet a third tack. "Ha! " And then he concludes by deciding that in spite of all " . . there's something all glorious and gracious in the wind" ( 1 3 5 : 460-61 ) . Reality here is of a wind-like impalpability, unequivocally plastic.

Donjalolo sends two emissaries, Zuma and Varnopi, to report to him concerning the island of Rafona. Although they saw the same things there, their accounts do not agree. This perceptual disparity upsets Donjalolo: " . . here, these two varlets, sent expressly to be­ hold and report, these two lying knaves, speak crookedly both. How is it? Are the lenses of their eyes diverse-hued, that objects seem different to both [ ? ] "6 Zuma and Varnopi, being two different pro­ jective Drummond lights, have seen two different worlds, and it is upon these that they have each reported.

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