My favorite Roquentin quote is, ” That black against my foot, it didn’t look like black, but rather the confused effort to imagine black by someone who had never seen black and who wouldn’t know how to stop, who would have imagined an ambiguous being beyond colors. It looked like a color, but also . . . like a bruise or secretion, like an oozing—and something else, an odour, for example, it melted into the odour of wet earth, warm, moist wood, into a black odour that spread like varnish over this sensitive wood, in a flavour of chewed, sweet fibre. I did not simply see this black: sight is an abstract invention, a simplified idea, one of man’s ideas. That black,amorphous, weakly presence, far surpassed sight, smell and taste. But this richness was lost in confusion and finally was no more because it was too much.”

Roquentin talks a lot about things and their names. What if apple was named orange and banana was named apple? Would we perceive the fruit in the same way? And how much of an influence the word itself has on a thing? That’s something that has always bothered me (though in a different area).

Whenever I watch a film or read a book that is considered a ‘classic’ and is ‘critically acclaimed’, I ask a question: You might or might not like this book/film but are you sure that your brain is not influenced by the fact that it is considered a ‘classic’ and loved by experts? You already KNOW that it is critically acclaimed, then how can you be objective while watching a film/reading a book? And I’m always frustrated because I can never get rid of this (I desperately want to). It’s like being bullied by an invisible thought.
It’s not just limited to films/books. Any experience we have: Do we enjoy it more because other people say it is fun or it is ‘really’ fun? Is an activity inherently ‘fun’ or it is we, the observers, who perceive it as fun?

If more people in this world understood Roquentin’s thoughts, there would be less violence in this world. We all try to find an essence in something and then try to bully others to accept this essence (some religions for example?). The debate is always about objective ‘essence.’ Some say that sex is spiritual, others say that it is sin, others say it is just for reproduction etc. The fight goes on.

If someone hates Roquentin, it is only because he/she knows that he/she doesn’t have the courage to go into the depths that Antoine has gone, to seek the truth.

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2 thoughts on “Subjective Book Review: Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre

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