Patrick Kelly's Reviews > Nausea

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
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Sep 21, 10

Sartre is known for his works' contributions to existentialist thought. Perhaps the most profound of these, I think, is Nausea. Existentialists see life as fundamentally challenging and nauseating. It's all about getting past the inherent meaninglessness of life to create individuated, existential meaning. You're defined constantly by your actions, not your "inherent" disposition or "pre-given" place. Nausea represents the first part of that struggle, wherein the protagonist Antoine is horrified by his own existence in the world. The novel is written in diary form as he describes in detail every single sensation of his body and feeling he experiences. It is a dramatization of the beginnings of the existentialist struggle. His ability to cohesively and coherently detail what this philosophy is all about, and the very terrifying reality it brings to the initiate, is beautifully rendered. I've read the novel several times and always enjoy that Sartre can articulate this sense of nauseated fear on the page. Through what someone else might consider a meaningless detail, the reader is exposed to the truly unnerving nature of living. If I could somehow incorporate that sense of acute awareness of the world and existence into one fraction of my writing, I'd be 10 times more talented already.
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