Study Guide

Nausea Quotes

  • Madness

    Perhaps it was a passing moment of madness after all. There is no trace of it left anymore. (1.10)

    When Antoine first experiences his feelings of "Nausea," he thinks that he might be falling into mental illness. But the feeling quickly passes, and he makes the mistake of thinking that it will never come back. But guess what? It will.

    I'm going to bed. I'm cured. I'll give up writing my daily impressions, like a little girl in her nice new notebook. (1.14)

    Antoine starts writing a diary in order to cope with the disorder that mental illness has brought into his daily life. But the moment his boredom and despair leave him, he thinks he's cured and that the worst is over. He even thinks he's been silly for writing a diary, comparing himself to a "little girl" writing in a notebook. Little does Antoine know that his struggles with "Nausea" are going to define him for the rest of this book.

    I know all that, but I know there is something else. Almost nothing. But I can't explain what I see. To anyone. There: I am quietly slipping into the water's depths, towards fear. (3.16)

    When his feelings of fear and disgust come back, Antoine has trouble putting his experience into words. The reason for this is because his fear exists on a level beneath language, on the level of pure existence, which for him is "almost nothing." As he slips further into this experience, his main feeling is fear. Again, we're forced to ask ourselves whether he is really coming to new intellectual truths… or if he is just losing his mind.

    He visited each one of them and, with an incomparable power, mimed the scene which was to take place. Thus he caused to be born or developed in them a madness for murder. (6.9)

    While researching the Marquis de Rollebon, Antoine wonders whether it's truly possible for one person to be so persuasive that he can turn other people crazy. In this instance, it seems like the Marquis was such a convincing speaker and actor that he got a bunch of men to crave murder so badly that they went insane and killed the ruler of Russia.

    I am cold, I take a step, I am cold, a step, I turn left, he turns left, he thinks he turns left, mad, am I mad? (22.39)

    Antoine really starts to question his sanity when he writes the word "I" and no longer knows who it refers to. He says "I," but since his mind is changing from one second to the next, his true self is always slipping away from the word "I," which is supposed to refer to him. If this sounds confusing, that's because it is. Just ask Antoine.

    Why not? It would be a change in any case. I put my left hand on the pad and stab the knife into the palm. The movement was too nervous; the blade slipped, the wound is superficial. (22.36)

    Sitting at a café table, Antoine picks up a knife and stabs himself in the hand. He's so bored and lonely that he just wants to feel something. Anything.

    A crazy loon: he relaxes, he feels protected against himself: nothing will happen to him today. I am reassured too. A crazy old loon: so that was it, so that was all. (16.81)

    When the strange man named M. Achille enters the café, Antoine almost feels relieved to know that there is someone around who is crazier than him. The problem with M. Achille, though, is that he doesn't feel responsible for what he does with his life because he's been labeled as "crazy." For Sartre, individuals are always responsible for their actions, and psychological explanations can't undo this fact.

    It's strange that everything makes so little difference to me: it frightens me. (24.280)

    Antoine is downright scared by how little he cares about the people and things around him. It doesn't make any difference to him if any of them are dead or alive. In short, he wishes that he felt more connected to things, since this is apparently how a person is "supposed" to feel.

    I feel as though I could do anything. For example, stab this cheese knife into the Self-Taught Man's eye. (24.282)

    When he realizes that the world is an absurd place and human life has no higher meaning, Antoine feels like he has total freedom to do whatever he wants. There's no God to tell him what's moral or not, so he totally has the freedom to pick up a knife and stab his friend in the eye. Of course, he'd have to deal with the consequences, like going to jail. But he can still do it if he's willing to take responsibility.

    He goes to the mirror, opens his mouth: and his tongue is an enormous, live centipede, rubbing its legs together and scraping his palate. (31.8)

    How's this for crazy? Toward the end of the novel, Antoine speculates on just how nutty the world would have to get before people took notice and actually started seeing the world in new ways. For example, does a person have to wake up with a bug for a tongue before he actually stops taking everything for granted? It sounds kind of crazy, but it makes a good point about how numbly people go through their everyday lives.

  • Isolation

    I live alone, entirely alone. I never speak to anyone, never; I receive nothing, I give nothing. (3.7)

    In case you didn't get the point, Antoine spends his life alone. The only person he really talks to is his diary… and that doesn't really count. Even though he claims to receive nothing, though, he's a very wealthy man who has obviously made his money somewhere. The fact that he is totally silent about this prevents us from judging him too much. But we might still accuse him of being a jerk when he says he "give[s] nothing." How about helping out your fellow humans, Antoine?

    In the past—even a long while after she left me—I thought about Anny. Now I think of no one any more. (3.11)

    Anny used to be the only person in the world whom Antoine cared about. But now that she has left him, he doesn't care about anyone. That's called a rough breakup… especially when you eventually fall into a full-blown mental crisis.

    All that is nothing new; I have never resisted these harmless emotions; far from it. You must be just a little bit lonely in order to feel them. (3.15)

    Loneliness can be a painful thing. But Antoine also knows that isolation is often a necessary ingredient of deep philosophical thought. If you're constantly hanging out with people and joking around, you keep yourself distracted from the truth, which according to Antoine is that life is meaningless and the people are 100% responsible for justifying everything they do.

    Perhaps it is impossible to understand one's own face. Or perhaps it is because I am a single man? People who live in society have learned how to see themselves as they appear to their friends. (6.22)

    Antoine feels that he lacks basic social skills because he doesn't spend enough time around other people. He even muses that people who spend a lot of time around others learn how to see themselves as they appear to others. That's a pretty worthwhile social skill to have, especially when you're trying to make friends. Antoine, though, wouldn't know a whole lot about that.

    "Before the War I was lonely and didn't realize it. I lived with my parents, good people, but I didn't get on with them." (24.163)

    It turns out that—surprise surprise—Antoine isn't the only person in Bouville who has ever experienced loneliness. His acquaintance, the Self-Taught Man, also knows the sting of isolation. But unlike Antoine, the Self-Taught Man's need for other people has ultimately turned him into a humanist. That means he believes in universal human love. Antoine, on the other hand, has embraced his isolation and concluded that ultimately, individual human beings are born alone and die alone.

    "When I think of those years… how could I have lived that way? I was dead, Monsieur, and I didn't know it." (24.163)

    The Self-Taught Man has trouble figuring out how he was able to survive all his years of loneliness. To put it simply, he felt dead inside without other human beings in his life to love and care for. The ironic thing about this, though, is that the guy is still a total loner who spends all his time isolated in the Bouville library.

    There is also a room on the side. But I have never been in it; it is reserved for couples. (16.19)

    Antoine is fully aware of how alone he is, and he often feels a pinch of envy when he sees young couples dating. But at the end of the day, the only woman he has ever truly loved is Anny, and she is gone from his life forever.

    But one day he had to find himself alone. Like M. Achille, like me: he is one of my race, he has good will. Now he has entered solitude—forever. (32.1)

    Antoine frankly thinks that some people are born to be alone. The Self-Taught Man is one of these people. Yes, he could have suppressed his love for young boys, but Antoine knows that sooner or later, the man's perverse desires would get the best of him and he'd become a social outcast. Whether he likes it or not, it's his destiny to be alone.

    This man had lived only for himself. By a harsh and well-deserved punishment, no one had come to his bedside to close his eyes. (21.7)

    When looking at a painting called "The Bachelor's Death," Antoine realizes just how much society condemns people who live only for themselves. The bachelor, for example, is painted as a man who has died alone with no one to care for him. In other words, not getting married is viewed as antisocial behavior—something that people should be punished for.

    This painting gave me a last warning: there was still time, I could retrace my steps. But if I were to turn a deaf ear, I had been forewarned. (21.7)

    While looking at the painting of the dead bachelor, Antoine knows that he's being warned against remaining single. The painting is basically telling him to get married and have kids if he plans on having anyone mourn for him when he dies. According to Antoine, though, it doesn't matter either way, since you stop existing once you're dead, and there's no point in caring about whether people mourn for you.

  • Appearances

    I can understand nothing of [my] face. The faces of others have some sense, some direction. Not mine. I cannot even decide whether it is handsome or ugly. I think it is ugly because I have been told so. (6.16)

    Antoine's opinion of his own face is pretty much the same as his opinion of his life. Other people's faces have direction just as other people have direction. Antoine, though, lacks all sense of direction, which he thinks is something that also appears in his face. When it comes time to judge his face (and his life), he ultimately decides it might be ugly because other people have said so. Not exactly a great thought to start your day.

    Perhaps it is impossible to understand one's own face. Or perhaps it is because I am a single man? People who live in society have learned how to see themselves as they appear to their friends. (6.22)

    Antoine wonders if it's even possible for him to judge his own face, since other people spend way more time looking at it than he does. Ultimately, he thinks that he'd have a better understanding of his appearance (and maybe his life) if he spent more time around other people.

    I looked at her large cheeks which never stopped rushing towards the ears. In the hollow of the cheeks, beneath the cheekbones, there were two pink stains which seemed weary on this poor flesh. (7.4)

    As with just about anyone he meets, Antoine sizes up the waitress named Madeleine in less than five seconds. He sees that her flesh is "weary," which is kind of funny, considering that there's really no one in this book who isn't weary according to Antoine's judgment. At this point, we might start to wonder if he's just putting his weariness onto the rest of the world.

    Cousin Adolphe has no eyes: his swollen, retracted eyelids open only on a little of the whites. He smiles sleepily; from time to time he snorts, yelps and writhes feebly, like a dreaming dog. (7.8)

    Like almost everyone he meets, Antoine also thinks that the man running a bar named Adolphe is weary. The whole world is weary, Antoine. Tell us something we don't know. Imagine how amazing it would be if he suddenly said, "So and so is happy without question. The happiest person ever." Not gonna happen, though.

    His blue cotton shirt stands out joyfully against a chocolate-coloured wall. That too brings on the Nausea […] I feel it out there in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. (7.9)

    It's not just people's appearances that can stop Antoine dead in his tracks, but also the appearances of everyday objects like suspenders or wallpaper. When two things seem to clash, like the color of suspenders and the wall behind them, Antoine can feel his sense of "Nausea" start to overwhelm him. He begins to realize that underneath his regular ideas about the world lies a realm of brute, silent existence that doesn't care at all about human concepts or human forms of meaning. It just is, and it doesn't care.

    She can stroll along the Rue Tournebride as much as she likes, no one will mistake her for a lady; she is betrayed by the cynical sparkle of her eyes, by her sophisticated look. (12.22)

    In keeping with his keen eye, Antoine spots a young woman walking in a crowd of rich people, but he can tell from the cynical look in her eyes that she is not an upper class "lady." Her cynical look comes from a lifetime of trying to survive, of worrying about money and always putting practical things first.

    [Jean Parrottin's] dazzling eyes devoured his whole face. Behind this glow I noticed the thin, tight lips of a mystic. (21.32)

    Even with people who have been dead for decades, Antoine feels like he can tell everything he needs to know about them by looking at their faces. In this case, he feels that beneath a pair of dazzling eyes, he can see that this man was a mystic at heart. This observation is kind of ironic, though, since Antoine has absolutely no way of checking whether or not this is true.

    I give them a good look at my face so they can engrave it in their memory. (24.288)

    When he notices that a bunch of people in a restaurant are staring at him, Antoine gets up to leave. Before going, though, he makes sure to give them one long look at his face so they won't forget him. After all, he wants them to remember the face of the person who figured out the truth of existence— the one and only Antoine Roquentin!

    It's really she. She lets her arms hang, she has the morose face which made her look like an awkward adolescent girl. But she doesn't look like a little girl anymore. She is fat, her breasts are heavy. (28.3)

    When he meets Anny for the first time in nearly ten years, Antoine realizes that she has gained weight. He also finds that she still has the same look on her face that makes her seem like an adolescent girl. But she's not a girl anymore; she's gotten older, and Antoine's impressions of her appearance will eventually prove true for her personality, since her experiences in the past ten years have made her very "old" and jaded.

    "That hair can't stand anything, it swears with hats, chair cushions, even at a wallpaper background." (29.49).

    Anny seems to see the truth of Antoine's personality just by looking at his hair. She says that his hair basically swears or clashes with everything that's put near it. The same could be said of what's beneath Antoine's hair—his brain—because his thoughts seem to clash with everything around him, too. By seeing so much about Antoine in just his hair, Anny shows that maybe there's something to the idea that people's appearances reveal a lot about themselves.

  • Time

    I think they do it to pass the time, nothing more. But time is too large, it can't be filled up. Everything you plunge into it is stretched and disintegrates. (7.19)

    According to Antoine, most of the things people do in their lives are designed to kill time. The problem is that time can never be filled up, because as soon as your distraction ends, you become bored and anxious all over again. The process of killing time can never be over, which causes Antoine a lot of pain.

    [Nausea] spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time—the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain. (7.22)

    Antoine's feelings of Nausea are directly connected to his experience of time. For him, time isn't just something that passes us by. It's a type of void that swallows up all of our greatest joys and accomplishments. One thing that time makes sure of is the fact that nothing lasts… especially not joy. Life is just an endless effort to stay one step ahead of time. But it's a game you can never win

    This is time, time laid bare, coming slowly into existence, keeping us waiting, and when it does come making us sick because we realize it's been there for a long time. (10.2)

    Every now and then, we succeed in distracting ourselves from the devouring powers of time. But sooner or later, we'll realize that it's still eating up everything we do with our lives, destroying everything as the present turns into the past. This is a painful thing to realize, as Antoine (and probably many readers) is bound to find out.

    Each instant appears only as part of a sequence. I cling to each instant with all my heart. (10.64)

    Antoine is tortured by the thought that the present is constantly turning into the past. For him, life looks like it's just a long string of beads. He's counting them off one by one and wondering what the point of it all is. But each time he tries to "cling" to a good moment with all his heart, it slips away just like all the others.

    I wanted the moments of my life to follow and order themselves like those of a life remembered. You might as well try and catch time by the tail. (11.7)

    Antoine wants to live his present-day life as though he's remembering it from the future, which makes sense when you think about it. Life can often look a lot rosier when you're looking back on it. Even the goods times seem to be better when you remember them, and not so much while you're actually living them.

    I think this is what happens: you suddenly feel that time is passing, that each instant is annihilated, and that it isn't worth while to hold it back, etc., etc. (13.5)

    As his conflict unfolds, Antoine starts to give up on the idea of trying to capture a good moment and hold onto it. Instead, he starts to accept just how pointless it is to try and fight time. The present will always turn into the past and you can't stop it. So why try?

    After all, you have to kill time […] Once they have slept together they will have to find something else to veil the enormous absurdity of their existence. (24.134)

    When he sees a young couple flirting at a restaurant table, Antoine knows the two will sleep together soon. But he also figures that the young people, like everybody, need a way to kill time and distract themselves from the absurdity of human life.

    Vegetation has crawled for miles towards the cities. It is waiting. Once the city is dead, the vegetation will cover it, will climb over the stones, grip them, search them, make them burst. (30.7)

    Antoine has no illusions about the greatness of humanity. He knows that one day, the last human will die and the natural world will devour all of the cities and monuments that humans have spent thousands of years trying to build. How is it possible to think that humanity is meaningful when we know with certainty that one day, there will be no more humanity left?

    But behind the existence which falls from one present to the other, without a past, without a future, behind these souls which decompose from day to day, peel off and slip towards death, the melody stays the same, young and firm. (33.50)

    For Antoine, it's not as if the movement from present to past is random or shapeless. According to him, there's a sort of music or "melody" to the movement of time. Its this movement that gives him hope that there might actually be something beautiful about human life, although he has a difficult time describing it outside of using the word "melody."

  • Life, Consciousness, Existence

    I jump up: it would be much better if I could only stop thinking. Thoughts are the dullest things. (22.34).

    One of Antoine's biggest wishes is that he could learn to stop thinking altogether. After all, his thoughts aren't very cheery, and it's very difficult to not think about something that's bothering you.

    I have no troubles, I have money like a capitalist, no boss, no wife, no children; I exist, that's all. And the trouble is so vague, so metaphysical that I am ashamed of it. (24.36)

    One of the reasons Antoine spends so much time hanging out and thinking about existence is because he has all the money he needs to never work again. For this reason, he has trouble justifying his existence, since there's really no reason for him to get up in the morning apart from whatever reason he invents for himself.

    I am in the midst of things, nameless things. (24.296)

    One of the things that troubles Antoine most is the question of what kind of world exists beneath the one created by human language and human concepts. You, for example, might see a table and think, "table." But the truth is that you're staring at a bunch of dead physical material shaped like something you recognize. The matter, though, doesn't care what you think it is. It's just there and it could just as easily be a pile of wood as it could be a table.

    The Nausea has not left me and I don't believe it will leave me soon; but I no longer have to bear it, it is no longer an illness or a passing fit: it is I. (25.1)

    Antoine claims to make peace with his Nausea when he admits that the sickness is a fundamental part of who he is. For him, the feeling of Nausea is directly connected to his ability to think as a human being. The moment you start wondering about the meaning of your own existence, Nausea is where you're going to end up.

    Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance. (25.12)

    Whoa there, Antoine. You're starting to sound a little depressed. Apparently, things are born with no reason and they die out of total randomness. Well that's just peachy.

    That little sense annoyed me: I could not understand it, even if I could have stayed leaned against the gate for a century; I had learned all I could know about existence. (25.15)

    Eventually, Antoine becomes convinced that he has learned all he will ever know about existence. He knows that it's a completely indifferent thing and that humanity's struggle for meaning appears pathetic and absurd once you realize just how cold and uncaring the world of things actually is.

    The Nausea has given me a short breathing spell. But I know it will come back again: it is my normal state. (31.5)

    Every now and then, Antoine succeeds in forgetting about the pain of existence. But he knows that it will always come back. Nausea is a part of who he is. It's not something he can just get over like a common cold. To think is to feel Nausea. The very ability to care about the meaning of life is the same thing that makes him feel pain at the thought that life might be meaningless.

    Existence is what I am afraid of. (31.8)

    When it comes time to paraphrase what is bothering him so much, Antoine admits that he is afraid of "existence." In other words, he's afraid of the crushing truth that the universe doesn't care at all about humanity and never will. It's just a bunch of earth and rock that doesn't have feelings and doesn't believe in human progress or significance.

    Now when I say "I," it seems hollow to me. I can't manage to feel myself very well, I am so forgotten. (33.3)

    When Antoine uses the word "I" in his diary, he doesn't even know what it refers to. He knows that he is a person, but isn't sure what exactly he means when he says "I." He means himself, of course, but what does that mean. After all, there are billions of other people in the world who use the word "I," and they all mean something different when they say it. Think about it… Who are you? Who is "I"?

    And I, too, wanted to be. That is all I wanted […] to drive existence out of me, to rid the passing moments of their fat, to twist them, dry them, harden, purify myself, harden myself. (33.48)

    Toward the end of Nausea, Antoine claims that all he has really wanted out of life is to exist or be in some sort of authentic way. He wants to escape the pain of existence without distracting himself. He wants to face life directly in all its harshness and still find reason to live. He wants to be tougher and harder, stronger and faster. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like he has succeeded.

  • Mortality

    The truth stares me in the face: this man is going to die soon. (16.95)

    When he sees a respected doctor walk into a restaurant, Antoine is overcome by certainty that the man will soon die. He can see it is the guy's face, and Antoine is very good at sizing people up with one look.

    Or else he was dead, up there above my head. Found dead in bed one foggy morning—sub-heading: in the café, customers went on eating without suspecting. (19.50)

    Antoine thinks about the way that world just keeps going when someone dies. After all, other people have their own business to deal with.

    Suppose he's dead. (19.43)

    When the owner of the Café Mably doesn't come down at his usual time, an old woman wonder out loud if he might be dead up in his bed. It's a morbid thought, but the casual way she brings it up shows us that death is a possibility to lingers over every second of our lives.

    Naked to the waist, his body a little green, like that of a dead man, the bachelor was lying on an unmade bed. The disorder of sheets and blankets attested to a long death agony. (21.6)

    When he checks out a painting called "The Bachelor's Death," Antoine realizes that the world is condemning him for not getting married and settling down. Basically, the paint's message is: get married and have children or else no one will care when you die.

    I had not gone far enough the other day: experience was much more than a defence against death; it was a right; the right of old men. (21.22)

    In a moment of flickering hope, Antoine looks at some portraits of respectable old men and realizes how brave they would have been to make meaning of their lives even in old age. In this case, he believes that experience isn't just a state of not-being-dead. It's actually something you can make meaningful if you live with freedom, dignity, and purpose.

    Suddenly they existed, then suddenly they existed no longer: existence is without memory; of the vanished it retains nothing—not even a memory. (25.12)

    For Antoine, death totally erases an entire person's life. You either exist or you don't, and when you die, it doesn't matter whether you've had kids or written a bunch of books. There's no such thing as living on after you're dead. Once you die, it's as if you never existed to begin with.

    My past is dead. The Marquis de Rollebon is dead, Anny came back only to take all hope away. (31.2).

    When Antoine finally gives up on his history project, he realizes that all it ever was was a distraction from the absurdity of his own existence. He used to think that getting Anny back would help him, too. But now he realizes that there's no getting away from the true of existence once it's been revealed to you. Now he feels like every part of him is dead.

    "Maybe he is going to kill himself." No: this gentle, baited soul could never dream of death. (33.6)

    After the Self-Taught Man gets banned from the Bouville library, Antoine wonders if the guy will kill himself. But he quickly loses the thought, since he knows that the STM is too gentle to do something so drastic. Let's hope he's right.

    A year from now I'd find myself as empty as I am today, without even a memory, and a coward facing death. (33.36)

    Antoine considers spending his entire fortune for the sake of getting a thrill out of life again. But he knows that if he did this, he would leave himself with nothing. Not even his memories would be important, since he believes that things only exist in the here and now. All he would have left would be death.

    But behind the existence which falls from one present to the other, without a past, without a future, behind these souls which decompose from day to day, peel off and slip towards death, the melody stays the same, young and firm. (33.50)

    Death is the inevitable outcome of life, says Antoine, and it's tough to argue with him. But where Antoine gets into dicey territory is when he says that death totally erases our existence altogether. For Antoine, there is no heaven and hell, and on top of that, our deaths totally erase everything we've ever done with our lives, making it so that we might as well never have existed to begin with.

  • Memory and the Past

    Not a memory: an implacable, torrid love, without shadow, without escape, without shelter. (16.44).

    For someone who doesn't think that memories "exist," Antoine sure has a lot of 'em. He especially seems to get nostalgic when he remembers times in the past when he was with his ex lover Anny. The problem is that this is just a trap of nostalgia and Antoine knows it. Getting back together with Anny isn't going to solve his sickness. It's only going to distract him for a while. At the end of the day, he'll just end up pulling a second person into his misery. Antoine needs to get himself figured out before he can go asking someone else to spend their life with him.

    [M. Achille] must know that we can do nothing for one another. The families are in their houses, in the midst of their memories. And here we are, two wanderers, without memory. (16.61)

    When a crazy man named M. Achille stares at Antoine across a bar, Antoine can only hope that the man won't try to strike up a conversation. After all, there's nothing they can do to relieve one another's loneliness or boredom. They are both doomed to be alone and without memories. In other words, families have memories that bind them together, but Antoine and M. Achille are loners who don't share their memories with anyone. They have lived their lives alone and they'll die alone.

    Having made love is better than still making it: looking back, [the doctor] compares, ponders. And the terrible corpse's face! (16.95)

    Even though he believes that memories don't "exist" in a technical sense, Antoine thinks that memories of doing stuff are often better than doing stuff in the present moment. In other words, he understands why people get nostalgic sometimes. When you remember something from the past, it's easy to remember only the parts of it that were good. But when you deal with something in the here and now, it's harder to appreciate it because there are usually so many thoughts going through your head.

    But that didn't seem true, and I had no real memory of a theft I had committed myself. (22.20)

    Antoine has a strange relationship to some of his memories. When he thinks about stealing manuscripts out of a Russian archive, for example, he doesn't feel as though he's the same person who stole those manuscripts. And the truth is he's right. That's because the person we are in the here-and-now is never the same as the person we were a year, a month, or even a minute ago. We're becoming a different person from one minute to the next.

    I give them a good look at my face so they can engrave it in their memory. (24.288)

    When Antoine gets up to leave a restaurant, he notices that everyone is staring at him. He wants so badly to tell them the harsh truth about existence, but feels like he doesn't even need to speak to let them know it. Instead, he just gives them a good look at his face to make sure they remember it. He believes that the memory of his face alone will be enough to show them the terrible truth that he has figured out—that human life is completely absurd and meaningless in the eyes of the universe.

    Suddenly they existed, then suddenly they existed no longer: existence is without memory; of the vanished it retains nothing—not even a memory. (25.12)

    This line is where Antoine really lays out what he thinks of memory and the past. For him, there is no such thing as a person "living on" after they die. As far as existence is concerned, things either exist or they don't. Once you're gone, you're gone.

    At 5:38 our conversation of yesterday will become a memory, the opulent woman whose lips brushed against my mouth will rejoin, in the past, the slim little girl of Meknes, of London. (30.1)

    After kissing goodbye to his ex lover Anny, Antoine knows that he may never see the woman again. Worse yet, his memory of kissing her won't give him any comfort. The past is the past, and while it's nice to think that it can live on in memory, the truth for Antoine is that memories aren't real. Only things in the here and now are real.

    My past is dead. The Marquis de Rollebon is dead, Anny came back only to take all hope away. (31.2)

    There have been times in Nausea when Antoine Roquentin has felt like his good memories have given him a little happiness. But at the end of the novel, he realizes that there's no comfort to be had in good memories. He needs to create meaning in the here and now. The only problem is that he has no clue how to do this.

    A year from now I'd find myself as empty as I am today, without even a memory, and a coward facing death. (33.36)

    Antoine thinks for a moment about spending his entire fortune in a single year for the sake of giving himself a thrill and breaking out of his boredom. But he knows that when all is said and done, he'll wind up right back where he started. Worse yet, he won't even have good memories of this year because they'll be swallowed up by his boredom and loneliness.

    But a time would come when the book would be written, when it would be behind me, and I think that a little of its clarity might fall over my past. Then, perhaps, because of it, I could remember my life without repugnance. (33.58)

    Toward the end of Nausea, Antoine decides to give up writing his diary and to write a novel instead. He thinks that doing this will help him learn to accept himself in the long run since a novel might give him an accurate idea of the person he was when he wrote it. He's saying that writing a novel would work better as a personal time capsule than writing a diary would.

  • Sex

    I do not pay her: our need is mutual. (3.9)

    Antoine has a casual sexual relationship with the owner of his favorite bar. Her name is Francoise, and like Antoine, she's more than happy to have sex with no strings attached. It just goes to show you, though, how alienated Antoine's relationships with other people are. For him, sex isn't an expression of love, but just a way of killing time. He's not exactly the romantic type.

    She takes pleasure in it (she has to have a man a day and she has many more besides me) and thus I purge myself of a certain nostalgia the cause of which I know too well. (3.9)

    Antoine knows the score. He's not the only male lover whom Francoise has, and he doesn't seem to care. When he says that sex helps him to "purge" him of a certain "nostalgia," he is probably talking about his memories of being with Anny, whom he truly loves. Without Anny in his life, the most human contact Antoine can hope for is meaningless sex.

    He can't make love any more? But he has made love in the past. Having made love is much better than still making it. (16.95)

    For Antoine, the memory of having sex is always better than the act of having sex. When you remember sex, you can look at it through rose-tinted glasses. Or in other words, you remember it as if it was happening in a movie. When you're actually having it, though, it might not be all that great. It might even be—gasp—boring.

    The criminal has fled. The child was raped. They found her body, the fingers clawing at the mud. (22.39)

    In case we didn't get the point, Antoine wants us to know that sex isn't a beautiful thing that gives meaning to life. More often than not, it's a terrible thing that's forced on people. People who disagree with his negative view of human life might point to sex and love as good reasons to live, but he seems intent on showing us that this definitely isn't the case.

    Antoine Roquentin is not dead, I'm fainting: he says he would like to faint, he runs, he runs like a ferret, "from behind" from behind from behind, little Lucienne assaulted from behind, violated by existence from behind. (22.39)

    Most of the examples of sex in this book are negative ones. Antoine has meaningless sex with a woman who doesn't love him, the Self-Taught Man makes advances on young boys, and Antoine reads a story in the newspaper about a little girl being raped and murdered. He compares her rape to the way he feels every day, because he basically thinks that existence itself (or the pain of being alive) is constantly violating him.

    They're going to sleep together. They know it. Each one knows that the other knows it. But since they are young, chaste and decent […] several times a week they go to dances and restaurants. (24.133)

    It's not good enough to keep having sex. The only way the young people will successfully distract themselves from the emptiness of life is to go about the whole "performance" of dating. They'll go dancing, they'll flirt, and they'll pretend that they're after more than just sex. But the fact remains for Antoine that all the kids are trying to do is avoid the crushing feeling of boredom.

    Once they have slept together they will have to find something else to veil the enormous absurdity of their existence. (24.134)

    When he sees a young couple flirting near him, Antoine knows that they are going to have sex. But he also knows that once the sex is over, the young people won't have anything left to distract them from the absurdity of their lives. Their only options will be to keep having sex or to find a different way of distracting themselves.

    He was so little guilty: his humble, contemplative love for young boys is hardly sensuality—rather a form of humanity. (32.1).

    There's no getting around it: The Self-Taught Man is sexually attracted to young boys. Antoine doesn't seem especially judgmental about this, because he thinks that the STM's boy-love is a natural extension of his humanism. In other words, the guy claims to love all of humanity equally, and this extends to the realm of sexuality.

    A brown hairy object approached it, hesitant. It was a thick finger, yellowed by tobacco; inside [the boy's] hand it had all the grossness of a male sex organ. (32.23)

    Antoine knows that something sexual is happening when the Self-Taught Man reaches out to stroke the hand of a boy sitting next to him. He even compares the STM's finger to a gross penis while it's happening. In this description, you can tell that Antoine is more disgusted by the STM than he's letting on.

    We have courts in France for people like you. So you were studying, so you were getting culture! (32.25)

    When the librarian realizes what the Self-Taught Man is doing with the boy beside him, he (the librarian) yells for the STM to leave the library and never come back. Shortly after, he punches the STM in the face and bloodies his nose. In case the STM didn't realize: making sexual advances on high school boys isn't okay.