Tuesday 12 April 2022

Book Review: Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (Modern Classics)

Title: Nausea
Author: Jean-Paul Sartre
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2002 (1938)
Pages: 227
Format: Paperback
Genre: Modern Classics
Source: Free Copy (damaged stock)
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.


Upon hearing the name Jean-Paul Sartre, up to now, I could tell you he was a French existentialist philosopher who smoked a pipe, but I had never actually read any of his works. I have remedied that with Nausea. Our local bookstore is moving premises, and last week they were giving away damaged books for free. This one caught my eye, so I grabbed it from the pile. Nausea was different from what I was expecting and was an interesting and enjoyable story. Yes, it was philosophical and thought provoking, but not to the complete exclusion of story and character. I was entertained throughout, and there were some wonderful lines of prose that truly captivated me. I feel it is a book that will repay a future reread, and it's the kind of work you will take something different away from each time. It gets four stars from me, and on the basis of this text, I would happily read more of Sartre's novels in the future.

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