Monday, August 20, 2012
Jean-Paul Sartre - Nausea
It has been way too long between Kitty's Book Nook posts, I do apologise, with all this blogging, I've not had much time to read. I'm sincerely hoping that the plan to limit myself to one post a day will free up at least an hour or six a week :) Today we are heading into completely different territory with Nausea. This is one of my favorite books, so I thought I'd share it with you.
The protagonist is Antoine Roquentin, a lonely, well-traveled man who is writing about a French Aristocrat who lived and dabbled in politics during the French Revolution. Antoine is not in contact with his family, and his only real human contact is through the library where he encounters a self-taught man who is reading every book in alphabetical order, and the waitress at the local cafe. Antoine is suffering from "Nausea" which is symptomatic of his depression and general feeling of unease and separation from the world. He observes people but feels removed from them. He has lost his sense of identity;
"My existence was beginning to cause me some concern. Was I a mere figment of the imagination?"
Antoine struggles more and more with his existential angst and slips deeper into self-doubt, disgust and anxiety. He observes the people around him going about their business and is appalled by their meaningless, robotic actions that they do not even consider as they act them out. One of the most striking scenes in the book for me is when he is looking at the root of a chestnut tree and realises that any words he can use to describe the root are not 'it' but only it's color, shape, texture etc. Nothing can reach the essence of it's existence, the essence of it's existence is 'nothingness'. Antoine begins to realise the true purpose of his being and eventually starts to understand his nausea.
I feel under-qualified to write about this book in much more detail than this, I'd really have to have a good think about it for a couple of weeks at least and would love to write a more in depth analysis. But I don't want to get into such fine details here, I'd rather give you a little taste of what the book is about, and perhaps imply it's meaning to you, so that you can hopefully discover it for yourself!
If you have seen "Melancholia" by Lars Von Trier, this book carries a very similar theme to the film. I suppose they are both in the existentialist realm, and both invoked similar feelings in me.
As I said at the beginning, this is one of my favourite books and I highly recommend it if you're looking for something new to read.