Nathan's Reviews > Nausea, The Wall and Other Stories

Nausea, The Wall and Other Stories by Jean-Paul Sartre
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Nov 27, 08

Read in November, 2008

This collection of short stories (which is mostly dominated by the longer Nausea) is a good introduction to Sartre's philosophically tinged fiction. I am a bit of a sucker for existentialist writings -- I find that they independently reflect many of my thoughts, views on life, and epiphanies. As much as we all enjoy the comfort of hearing our own thoughts and feelings echo throughout this massively complex cave of life, I found his writings to be often banal with occasional strokes of insight.

Let me go a bit further.

I feel that Nausea is a bit over-dramatized. I it is perfectly fine to draw out the existential crisis, but unfortunately it was played out in the same ways over and over again. The main character repeatedly is slapped in the face by reality and the absurdity of being given life without asking for it, but unfortunately he does not use this revelation toward personal growth.

I posit that the most important thing to do with existential epiphanies is to recognize: "okay, that's the way it is... now what?". In my view, there are heaps of benefits that accompany this recognition and one is given an unbounded freedom. My issue is that Sartre's main character tends to err toward the side of the depressed perspective of meaninglessness. At the end of Nausea there is a brief reconciliation giving a fraction of hope and growth, but this is largely left unexplored.

Nausea was filled with meaningful and insightful scenes and quotes more often than his other short stories, but I felt that the short stories were better from a narrative and storytelling standpoint. The content of the short stories covers a wide range. I particularly found the tracing of the growth of a child who later explores homosexuality, surrealists, and becomes "self-realized" as an antisemite to be a twisted take on becoming an individual.

I definitely recommend this book those existentially inclined readers looking to read a fictional shout-out to some of the main themes and ideas found in otherwise dense philosophical texts.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Unfortunately, if he does look into things and tries to define himself and accept things, then he is no longer the lost Existentialist. That is the bread and butter of it, isn't it? That it is all meaningless and i did not ask to be here? I loved your review.


Nathan I agree; Satre loves portraying the role of, as you call it, the "lost Existentialist". I'm not convinced that the universal reaction . Maybe Satre just likes to capture that moment where one reacts to the meaninglessness in a slightly depressed manner. I would just prefer to also see alternative "reactions" to this realization.

Paradoxically, many find both meaning and themselves in the act of experiencing meaninglessness. This (what I claim to be) more "positive" reaction is rarely explored in Sartre's writings. And I think this unfortunately leaves the skewed picture that there little hope in revelation.

Sonia wrote: "Unfortunately, if he does look into things and tries to define himself and accept things, then he is no longer the lost Existentialist. That is the bread and butter of it, isn't it? That it is all ..."


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