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.
Anny is an English actress with whom Roquentin was in a relationship for three years. They broke up about six years before the events of the story take place and have not seen, written, or talked to each other in about four years. One day, Roquentin unexpectedly receives a letter from Anny, stating that she will be passing through Paris in a week and asking him to come visit her while she is there. Roquentin goes to visit Anny in her hotel room in Paris with the hope that she will want to get back together with him. He and Anny have a long conversation in which she explains to him that she had always wanted to experience “perfect moments” in life but that she now realizes there are no perfect moments, and so she no longer expects to have them. Roquentin tries to explain to her his own thoughts about the Nausea, but Anny does not seem interested in what he has to say. She tells him that she is living as a “kept” woman, meaning that she is being supported as the mistress of a wealthy man whom she does not love and whom she is not going to marry. Anny rather abruptly tells Roquentin to leave, because a young man (presumably a lover) is coming to visit her. She tells Roquentin that she no longer has any use for him. Later, at the train station, Roquentin sees Anny board a train with a tall, Egyptian-looking man who is presumably the man by whom she is being “kept.” Although Anny sees Roquentin from her window on the train, her face remains expressionless, and she does not acknowledge him. In visiting Anny, Roquentin had hoped that the answer to his internal struggles would lie in renewing his love relationship with her. However, when he realizes that this is not possible, he is once again left to grapple alone with the significance of his existence.
The Corsican is the man who serves as a security guard for the library in Bouville. Toward the end of the novel, he sees the Self-Taught Man making sexual advances at a young schoolboy. The Corsican immediately walks over to the Self- Taught Man and yells at him and then punches him in the face, causing his nose to bleed profusely. The Corsican then orders the Self-Taught Man to leave the library and never come back.
Francoise is the manager of the Railwaymen’s Rendezvous café, and also works as a prostitute in an upstairs room of the café. Roquentin maintains a purely sexual relationship with Francoise, although...
(The entire section is 1,506 words.)