Places Discussed


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...

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Historical Context

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

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Literary Style

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

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Compare and Contrast

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


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Topics for Further Study

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

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What Do I Read Next?

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

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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,...

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(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.


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