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.)