Nausea Book Summary - Nausea Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Nausea summary

Jean-Paul Sartre

Explore and Question the Very Essence of Existence

4.2 (130 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre is a philosophical novel that delves into the existential crisis of its protagonist, exploring themes of alienation, consciousness, and the meaninglessness of life.

Table of Contents

    Summary of 5 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 5

    Antoine’s diary

    Before the story begins, Nausea greets us with a fictional editor’s note. We learn that we’re about to read the unaltered diary of a Parisian historian called Antoine Roquentin. The diary entries are from 1932, when Antoine settled in the (fictional) French town of Bouville to complete his history on the (again, fictional) Marquis de Rollebon.

    Then the diary begins. Antoine explains that he wants to start journaling because he’s experiencing some unsettling changes in his feelings and perceptions.

    He tells us about his lonely life in Bouville. He inhabits a grim hotel room and spends his days in the local library researching. In between, he goes for walks, hangs out at cafés and bars, and has casual sex with women. We learn about the people in his life – an ex-lover named Anny whom he can’t quite forget; his chatty neighbor Lucie; and a peculiar autodidact known as the Self-Taught Man whom he met at the library.

    As he goes about his solitary days, Antoine begins noticing odd changes in himself. He experiences moments of inexplicable anxiety and revulsion toward his surroundings. He becomes intensely bored with his research subject and has trouble looking in the mirror. He also feels a strange sense of dread emanating from the physical objects around him. For instance, when he picks up a pebble on the beach, he feels sick to his stomach.

    One day, Roquentin goes to a café in hope of running into owner Françoise, his current casual affair. When he learns that Françoise is out of town, Roquentin is seized by a terrible feeling that he describes as nausea. He leaves the café to distract himself with a game of cards and a movie. But even through the fleeting joy of those experiences, the nausea sticks with him.


    In the opening chapters, Sartre introduces the major existentialist themes that run through the novel. Protagonist Antoine begins to grapple with the meaninglessness of existence, feeling repulsed by the objects and people around him. Sartre’s spare, observational prose establishes a bleak mood that reflects Antoine’s growing alienation from the world. 

    Antoine’s existential struggle has many parallels to Sartre’s own life. Sartre began writing Nausea in 1932, while living abroad in Berlin on a fellowship. Like his protagonist Antoine, he was supposed to be writing a historical biography. Many of Sartre’s ideas about alienation, freedom, and responsibility stem from his own experience with anxiety and depression during that time. 

    Later in his life, Sartre explained that he had experimented with the hallucinogenic mescaline shortly before writing the novel. It caused in him effects similar to the nausea Antoine describes.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Nausea?

    Key ideas in Nausea

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Nausea about?

    Nausea (1938) is a philosophical novel that explores daily life through the lens of existentialism. The story follows Antoine Roquentin, a solitary historian living in a French seaport town, as he grapples with feelings of alienation, the search for freedom, and the meaninglessness of human existence.

    Who should read Nausea?

    • Students of philosophy, history, and culture
    • Fans of avant-garde and experimental literature
    • All those grappling with the big questions of life

    About the Author

    Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, and critic. Considered one of the leading figures in twentieth-century French philosophy, he was an early proponent of existentialism – a philosophical school that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. Sartre explored these themes in literary works like Nausea and Being and Nothingness.

    Categories with Nausea

    Book summaries like Nausea

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    29 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial