Monday, 8 September 2014

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Goodness knows that I know pretty much nothing about existentialism. I've read The Stranger. Now I've read this. That's pretty much it. And I have to say, I'm not sure, based on those books, that it's a philosophy so much as a pathology. Or perhaps just a mental illness. I described the main character of this book to my husband, and he told me that it just sounded like clinical depression.

I was so glad to hear him say that, because it's exactly what I was thinking! I am not convinced by Nausea that there is anything about this character that is deep. Instead, he cut himself off from other people, almost entirely, lives an isolated life in the middle of a town, does work he doesn't care about, and yeah, no shit he's not happy. I'm not sure that proves the meaninglessness of life.

The other aspect that I can tease out reads  that because there are gross bits to life, ewwww, life.

Maybe there are deeper meanings here I'm not getting. But I just wanted to smack this guy across the back of the head, and tell him to get help. Not to love each and every person, like the humanist he so disdains. Just, you know, have some connections. With some people.

Maybe being independently wealthy and not having to work can mean you drift. But the character seems to have deliberately chosen to sever himself from all ties, and pick work that has no drive to it, with no external influences on anything he does. He's lost in his own head. Of course he finds that hollow company.

He knows nothing of the people in the town, so he follows them around to dismiss them. He runs into the Well-Read Man, who also goes to the library he goes to and is working through the collection, and is dismayed to find that he's a humanist, and dismisses the very idea of loving people, in the aggregate and the specific.

I'm sure there is actually more to the philosophy. But it really doesn't come across as a philosophy here. Just as a profoundly unhappy man who may be in the grips of a serious depression.

Also, there's that disturbing dismissal of the seriousness of pedophilia in the last chapter or two, which comes completely out of left field, and nearly made my jaw drop. Let's see, the child was scared. Yes, it didn't go as far as it could have, but, so? Where is that an excuse? No, I don't think I'm a prude for thinking so, Sartre.

It was truly flabbergasting. And troublesome. And ended the book with a sick feeling in my stomach.

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