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This engaging summary presents an analysis of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, which follows one man as he becomes truly aware of the existence of the world around him and grapples with the rising sense of panic this causes. This realisation leads him to abandon the historical biography he is working on and embrace fiction instead, as a way of freeing himself from his nausea. This highly original book, which is one of the classic works of existentialism, combines elements of the essay and the novel as a way of transmitting the author’s philosophical ideas. Jean-Paul Sartre was a French writer, philosopher and political activist. He was a leading figure in the existentialist philosophical movement, and participated in the French Resistance during the Second World War. In 1964, he became the first person to ever turn down a Nobel Prize.
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Jean-Paul Sartre was a French writer and philosopher. He was born in Paris in 1905, and grew up in a cultivated, middle-class environment, which he described in Words (1963), an autobiographical account of his youth. He went on to study human sciences, sat the agrégation, a competitive teaching examination, in 1929, and met his future partner Simone de Beauvoir (French writer, 1908-1986). He became a philosophy teacher and published his novel Nausea (1938), which was positively received by critics.
One year later, Sartre was drafted into the army. He was taken prisoner, and joined the Resistance after his release. During this period, he wrote his first philosophical essay, Being and Nothingness (1943). Towards the end of the war, he met Albert Camus (French writer, 1913-1960) and worked with him on the newspaper Combat. Alongside his resistance activities, he wrote a series of literary texts in which he expounded on his philosophy and definition of literature, going from novels to plays. His most famous plays are The Flies (1943) and No Exit.
After the Liberation, Sartre founded the literary and political review Les Temps modernes (“Modern Times”). His books were immensely successful, and he became the leader of the existentialist movement. In terms of politics, he moved closer to the Communist Party (although he did not join the party), and supported the National Liberation Front, which was seeking independence from France, during the Algerian War.
In 1964, he turned down the Nobel Prize in Literature because, in his view, the writer must “refuse to let himself be transformed into an institution”. He never accepted prizes, as he felt that becoming an “institution” would restrict his freedom. He took part in the civil unrest in France in May 1968, and died in Paris in 1980.
Nausea is a philosophical novel by Jean-Paul Sartre which was first published in 1938. The book made Sartre famous and was met with unanimous acclaim in the literary world.
Nausea took eight years to write and lays out Sartre’s existentialist philosophy in the form of a fictional diary. As the days go by, Antoine Roquentin, the narrator and protagonist of the novel, writes about the feeling of strangeness and powerlessness that overwhelms him in the face of an existence which he discovers to be useless and irrational. He feels like he is unnecessary in a world which makes him feel nauseous, where everything happens without reason or need and simply exists. In this book, Sartre rejects received wisdom and argues that existence precedes essence.
In Bouville (French for “Mudtown”), a small fictional town which brings to mind Le Havre, Antoine Roquentin, a solitary young man, is writing a biography of the Marquis de Rollebon, an 18th
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