Antoine Roquentin (ahn-TWAHN roh-keh-TA[N]), a philosophical young man who has settled down in Bouville, a town by the sea, to write a biography of the marquis de Rollebon, an eighteenth century European politician. During the third year of work on the book, Roquentin notices that he has become the victim of a strange affliction; what he calls a “sweetish sickness” settles over him from time to time. Repelled by the malady, he seeks to rid himself of it by spending time with the few people he knows and by stopping work on the Rollebon book. No one can help him. In despair, he goes to Paris, hoping to be able to write a novel, knowing that he is never to solve the problems of his life.
Ogier P. (oh-ZHYAY), an acquaintance whom Roquentin calls “The Self-Taught Man.” To rid himself of loneliness and despair, Roquentin unprofitably spends some time with Ogier P. Roquentin witnesses a scene in which Ogier P., discovered to be a homosexual, is forcibly ejected from a library.
Anny (ah-NEE), an English girl whom Roquentin had known before he began work on the biography. They meet in Paris. She has become fat, insults Roquentin, and leaves Paris with the man who is keeping her.
Françoise (frah[n]-SWAHZ), a woman who operates a café called the Rendezvous des Cheminots. She and Roquentin were once friendly toward each other in a purely physical way. When Roquentin visits her to see if she can help him defeat the despair, which has by now become overwhelming, he finds that she has no time to spend with him.