Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Bouville (boo-VEEL). Dark, cold, rainy, and foggy coastal city, which, in its ambience, stimulates the historian Antoine Roquentin’s growing despair and anger. Bouville is Sartre’s fictional version of the western French port Le Havre. However, Sartre makes an immediately bitter satirical point by setting Nausea in “Bouville.” In French, “la boue” is “mud”—Nausea therefore takes place in gloomy, viscous “Mudville.”

Nausea is essentially Roquentin’s journal of his experiences in Bouville. As Roquentin sees the city, it is dominated by a narrow-minded, self-satisfied, intolerant, oppressive bourgeoisie devoid of culture. Bouville and its people create, then, an appropriate backdrop for Roquentin’s effort to move out of figurative as well as literal darkness into the light of personal truth.

Bouville train station

Bouville train station. The first passages in Roquentin’s diary concern his experience in the city’s railroad station. The trains and their schedules, exercises in strict regularity and predictability, save Roquentin during one of his first crises of contingency. At the beginning of this opening passage, Roquentin is terrified that there is no security in the universe—that anything can happen at any time. This fear is driving him crazy, he thinks. However, when he later considers, from the perspective of the window of his nearby room, the arrival in the station and the departure of the same trains at the same time every day, carrying and delivering the same people, he puts his anxiety to rest—temporarily. Life, he now thinks, is orderly, something one can count on.


Café. Unnamed neighborhood café...

(The entire section is 724 words.)

Historical Context

(Novels for Students)

France Between the Wars
Nausea is set in 1932 and was first published in 1938. The 1930s are often referred to as the...

(The entire section is 888 words.)

Literary Style

(Novels for Students)

The Fictional Diary
Nausea is written in the form of a fictional diary. An “Editors’ Note” that opens the novel states...

(The entire section is 316 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Novels for Students)

1930s: The French government is a constitutional democracy known as the Third Republic, based on the Constitution of 1815.


(The entire section is 163 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Novels for Students)

Sartre was one of the philosophers at the forefront of the French existential movement. Learn more about another major existential thinker,...

(The entire section is 293 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Novels for Students)

L’Etre et le néant (1943, Being and Nothingness) is Sartre’s masterpiece of philosophical writing. In this work he...

(The entire section is 258 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

Carruth, Hayden, “Introduction,” in Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre, New Directions, 1964, pp. v–xiv.

McGinn, Marie, “The Writer and Society: An Interpretation of Nausea,” in British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 37, No. 2, April 1997, pp. 118–28.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, Nausea, translated by Lloyd Alexander, New Directions, 1964.

Van den Hoven, A., “Some of These Days,” in Sartre Studies International, Vol. 6, No. 2, December 2000, pp. vi-xxi.

Further Reading
Fullbrook, Kate, and Edward Fullbrook, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: The Remaking of a Twentieth- Century Legend, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. Fullbrook and Fullbrook provide critical discussion and reevaluation of the legendary relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Fulton, Ann, Apostles of Sartre: Existentialism in America, 1945–1963, Northwestern University Press, 1999. Fulton discusses the influence of Sartre’s existentialist thought and writings on American intellectuals of the post–World War II era.

Giles, James, ed., French Existentialism: Consciousness, Ethics, and Relations with Others, Rodopi, 1999. Giles provides a collection of essays by various authors discussing the fundamental ideas of French existential philosophy.

Murphy, Julien, ed., Feminist Interpretations of Jean-Paul Sartre, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. Murphy offers a collection of critical essays by various authors examining the life and work of Sartre from a feminist perspective.

Sartre, Jean-Paul, and Benny Levy, Hope Now: The 1980 Interviews, University of Chicago Press, 1996. Levy provides interview material from a series of long interviews with Sartre, conducted during the last year of his life.

Scriven, Michael, Jean-Paul Sartre: Politics and Culture in Postwar France, St. Martin’s Press, 1999. Scriven provides critical and historical discussion of Sartre’s life and work in the cultural and historical context of France during the post–World War II era.

Shack, William A., Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story between the Great Wars, University of California Press, 2001. Shack provides historical discussion of the jazz music scene in Paris during the 1930s. Shack particularly focuses on the presence of African American jazz musicians who came to Paris during this period.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Barnes, Hazel E. The Literature of Possibility: A Study in Humanistic Existentialism. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959. A philosophical and psychological examination of Sartre’s literary output, written by one of his leading translators. Refutes the charge of antihumanism that has been made against Sartre’s work.

Danto, Arthur C. Jean-Paul Sartre. New York: Viking Press, 1975. The first chapter, “Absurdity: Or, Language and Existence,” examines Nausea at length and discusses Sartre’s views on language, the analytic “philosophy of mind,” and the structural representation of reality.

Magny, Claude-Edmonde. “The Duplicity of Being.” In Sartre: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Edith Kern. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1962. Discusses the experience of nausea as “the sudden revelation” of the mutability and impermanence of existence and existing things. Interprets the characters of Nausea as “cheaters” who attempt a sequential (and hence “fictitious”) narration of their lives. Recommended for more advanced readers.

Murdoch, Iris. Sartre: Romantic Rationalist. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1959. Includes a well-written introduction to Sartre’s thought. Discusses Nausea in chapter 1, “The Discovery of Things,” and refers to the work throughout. Also contains a bibliography of Sartre’s works (French titles) and an updated listing (through 1985) of English translations. An excellent guide to Sartrean themes.

Peyre, Henri. French Novelists of Today. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. An amplified version of Peyre’s earlier The Contemporary French Novel (1955). Chapter 9 covers Nausea and other of Sartre’s novels. Also includes a short but helpful bibliography.