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Nausea (Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Jean-Paul Sartre , Robert Baldick
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 May 1970 Modern Classics

Jean-Paul Sartre's first published novel, Nausea is both an extended essay on existentialist ideals, and a profound fictional exploration of a man struggling to restore a sense of meaning to his life. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is translated from the French by Robert Baldick with an introduction by James Wood.

Nausea is both the story of the troubled life of an introspective historian, Antoine Roquentin, and an exposition of one of the most influential and significant philosophical attitudes of modern times - existentialism. The book chronicles his struggle with the realisation that he is an entirely free agent in a world devoid of meaning; a world in which he must find his own purpose and then take total responsibility for his choices. A seminal work of contemporary literary philosophy, Nausea evokes and examines the dizzying angst that can come from simply trying to live.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was an iconoclastic French philosopher, novelist, playwright and, widely regarded as the central figure in post-war European culture and political thinking. Sartre famously refused the Nobel Prize for literature in 1964 on the grounds that 'a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution'. His most well-known works, all of which are published by Penguin, include The Age of Reason, Nausea and Iron in the Soul.

If you enjoyed Nausea, you might like Albert Camus' The Outsider, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of the very few successful members of the genre "Philosophical Novel" ... a young man's tour de force'

Iris Murdoch

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New impression edition (28 May 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140022767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140022766
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Philosopher, novelist, playwright and polemicist, Jean-Paul Sartre is thought to have been the central figure in post-war European culture and political thinking. His most well-known works, all of which are published by Penguin, include THE AGE OF REASON, NAUSEA and IRON IN THE SOUL. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Sartre's first novel can be a terrifying and brutal unmasking of the nature of existence. It is one of those books that grabs your attention and forces you to deal with your own response to the writing. I was so caught up in the protagonist's developing understanding of who he was and what his life actually meant that I hardly noticed the style of writing. The power of description of his awakening consciousness is very powerful and subtly builds throughout the book, leading to an ending with a strange feeling of euphoria and freedom.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Nausea was initially to be called 'Melancholy' and I feel the latter is a better title. To me nausea suggests a sickness of the body, but melancholy is a feeling of spiritual numbness verging on depression, and it is this feeling of isolation and nothingness our 'hero' is fighting to overcome in this moody tale of a philosopher/writer battling his internal demons. It sounds depressing but Sartre is such a wonderful writer it's a joy to read such an erudite and beautifully written novel. Yes, the chapter where R walks through the museum criticising all the town's former leading citizens is out of place, but it is the exception to the rule that every paragraph is fascinating. I particularly liked the description of R's former lover as having 'outlived herself'. This perfectly encompasses the idea that for some only youth and beauty have any value or joy. It comments sagaciously on the brevity of fecundity. Nausea is, unsurprisingly, similar in style to Camus's fabulous 'The Fall'. As an introduction to Existentialism you could not find a better novel. Vi et Animo! JP :)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uninteresting. 10 Jan 2014
After reading this novel I decided I'd read no other works by JPS. The writing is not bad, but it is a pretty uninteresting read anyway.
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2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is nausea 20 Aug 2007
By Coco
Nausea is Sartre's first novle ,Maybe also is the most successful novel because this novel contains all his later philosophy ideology .What is the nausea?It is a discomfortable feeling when Roquentin faces the chanciness and unknowability of the world ,Also the meaningless existent ,human dissimilation and absurd reality come into being nausea.When I read this book I feel gloomy and pressimistic,Campared with Camus's novel Nausea is more stream-of-consciousness,My view about the chanciness and unknowability of the world is very different with Roquentin,I think just the chanciness and unknowability of the world make our life more brilliant and beautiful .....
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  118 reviews
181 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nausea 3 Oct 2004
By Damian Kelleher - Published on Amazon.com
With his first novel, Sartre began to explore what would later come to be known as existentialism, or the philosophy that: 'Holds that there is no intrinsic meaning or purpose, therefore it is up to each individual to determine his own meaning and purpose and take responsibility for his actions'. While this line of philosophical thought does have its origins in Kierkegaard, it was in the writings of Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus and Sartre that these ideas were fully developed.

Antoine Roquentin is a solitary man, recently afflicted with a recurrent feeling, one that he terms 'the Nausea'. At times, he feels that life is repugnant, a vapid, shallow game between mindless people who have no real idea of their own purpose or consequence, himself included. At first he dismisses these feelings as the typical lonely thoughts of an ageing academic who is unable to complete the book he has been researching for years, but as the feeling continues and he is able to examine himself with greater and greater clarity, Roquentin begins to learn that maybe he has stumbled upon one of the great truths of our reality.

He discovers that there is no essence, no importance in motion or in the petty labels that people like to attach to themselves and others in a bid to catalogue the world and everything in it, and by cataloguing, to control. He reasons that we are essentially impossible to control, that each person exists because they exist, and for no other reason that that. The terms of our existence are unspecific, but clear. We do not exist to be pawns to a god, or to move the path of humanity forward. Instead, we exist simply to exist, we are an end unto ourselves, and the inherent absurdity in our lives means that a meaningful existence is impossible and even blasphemous. Through clear-eyed, coherent thinking, we are able to control our lives as we choose, and it is up to every man and woman to independently reject suicide. For those that do not, the meaningless quality of our lives makes no different when compared to those that do, thus there is no dishonour or achievement in either.

During the novel, there are a few side stories involving an ex-lover and a child-molesting friend, but these characters are used mostly as foils for Sartre's philosophy. In presenting arguments to Roquentin, Sartre is able to adequately satisfy the objections to his philosophy. There is a sense, however, that while the elements of existentialism presented in Nausea are powerful and compelling, the picture is not yet complete and no real answers are given. Later on in his career, Sartre was able to provide a large number of these answers, but even this early on, with his first novel, the depth of his thinking and the power of his message is quite simply amazing. Nausea is a stunning book, an intellectual delight, and is recommended to all.
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expect to be challenged 6 Sep 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Nausea is not an easy book to read, not because of length or complexity of writing but because it forces the reader to confront some of the most frightening questions about life. The plot is largely uneventful, and yet this is where the majority of the book's philosophical questions arise. It's amidst the mundane, the every-day, the common interactions in life wherein the main character Roquentin questions the foundations of reality: what is this world I live in? why am I here? what does my life mean?
The thing Roquentin encounters most dramatically is existence: dull, ever-present, unable to be explained, a hidden and dumb force that waits silently behind the meanings we ascribe to it. And it is this force, the force of existence, which is the ultimate source of humility, for in it all of our actions are rendered meaningless.
Why do we do what we do? What are our motivations, our ambitions, and why do we have them? Sartre explores questions like these in a variety of daily situations and presents a concept of reality that has no mercy for the squeamish mind. He approaches his reader with such intensity that one cannot look away, one is forced to follow his reasoning to its unconventional and disturbing conclusions. Still, as the introduction points out, "Coming for the first time to the works of Sartre, Japsers, or Camus is often like reading, on page after page, one's own intimate thoughts and feelings, expressed with new precision and concreteness."
This is an excellent novel, very thought-provoking, best approached with an open mind and the courage to listen patiently to that which may frighten one the most. Regardless of your reaction to it, Nausea will have you thinking for quite some time afterward.
67 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning 18 Feb 2000
By David Harrison - Published on Amazon.com
Nausea is one of the most powerful literary experiences one can find. The form of the novel enables us to enter into Sartre's brilliant (and warped)mind. There is a sort of inexplicable energy that keeps on pushing you to read further and further- it is impossible to put this book down. The work can be appreciated as a novel for the quality of the story, but can also be understood as a powerful argument for Sartre's existentialist philosophy. He takes the reader through different alternatives to realizing that one's knowledge of one's existence makes one sick or creates nausea. Common escapes such as glorifying the past, the hope of relentless self-improvement,placing faith in love, are all explored and dramatically proven by Sartre to be false delusions to the truth that human existence is sickening.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent book, but horribly edited. 24 Nov 2007
By Michelle Lupei - Published on Amazon.com
This is not a review of the literary prowess of the work of Jean-Paul Sartre; this is a review of the horribly lackadaisical attitude towards editing that allowed this edition to be sent to press. I would only accept the quality of this book were it a pre-press proof.

Many portions of this edition are rife with typos. Most are simple juxtapositions of letters, but some horrendous substitutions of words make sections of the book nearly unreadable without consulting the original text. The translation is at times clunky and dated, but at worst, inaccurate.

For example, on page 170, an oft cited passage originally phrased as "Personne. Pour personne, Antoine Roquentin n'existe. Ça m'amuse." instead reads: "No one. Antoine Roquentin exists for on one. That amuses me." It doesn't amuse me. With the original text by their side, even one who does not speak French can identify the blatant error allowed to pass here.

Additionally, quotation marks at times encapsulate the non-quoted portions of sentences.

The book, 4 stars.
The quality of the publication, 1 star.

The poor editing in this edition makes it far more difficult to read than it should be. Do yourself a favor: go to the library and get a different, readable out-of-print edition if you can find one, and save your cash for a book that is truly deserving.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible piece of writing 29 April 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I bought this book I could not put it down. The emotions and thoughts that Antoine has very much mirrored the way I felt about life and existence. As a few of the reviewers have pointed out, the whole story is depressing and grim. This is the whole point of the story!!! Life and existence, as the books name suggests, is nauseating and disgusting.
The writing style of Jean Paul Sartre is nothing less than breath taking. The anger, the depression, and the fear of existing is captured beautifully in Sartre's writing. Highly recommended if you want to learn and get a feel of the main ideas of existentialism.
By the way, as to the question of "If existence is meaningless, why not just kill yourself?" Well, why do people climb mountains if they are just going to come back down? Some people create their own personal purpose and give meaning to their lives through some medium. So, why not kill myself? I suppose it's the same reason Bertrand Russel didn't kill himself: I wish to learn more Mathematics.
Anyways, Albert Camus answers this very question with lucid prose in his book "The Myth of Sisyphus."
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