Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize for Literature, Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist, holds a position of singular eminence in the world of letters. Among readers and critics familiar with the whole of Sartre’s work, it is generally recognized that his earliest novel, La Nausée (first published in 1938), is his finest and most significant. It is unquestionably a key novel of the twentieth century and a landmark in Existentialist fiction.
Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogues his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which “spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our timethe time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain.” Roquentin’s efforts to come to terms with life, his philosophical and psychological struggles, give Sartre the opportunity to dramatize the tenets of his Existentialist creed.