Antoine is the narrator of Nausea, with the exception of the "Editors' Note" at the novel's beginning. Seemingly a trained historian, he is contemplative and analytical in the diaries which make up the novel. Much of these diaries are made up of Antoine analyzing his experience of what he calls “the Nausea,” a visceral disgust borne out of the existence of things. He loses his faith in the history he is writing as the novel proceeds, becomes increasingly misanthropic, and eventually realizes that there is no reason for living. His response is not suicide; instead he chooses to continue living and to vacate Bouville (a fictional town in France) for Paris, and after hearing “Some of These Days,” his favorite song, he decides to write a novel.
Anny is Antoine’s former lover. She sends him a letter early in the novel, letting him know she’ll be in Paris soon and that she “must" see him. When they meet weeks later, she reveals that she’s “being kept” by a man and that she feels as if she’s changed. Although she has given up acting professionally, she still acts in an elusive and perhaps artificial way. Yet, in their brief interaction, she confides in Antoine that she no longer believes in her ability to create “perfect moments.” Even the passion that once defined her has left. Their conversation indicates that Antoine and Anny still have much in common, but the two leave alienated from one another and choose to leave their relationship in the past.
The Self-Taught Man
Though “The Editors” give his name as “Ogier P,” Antoine refers to this character exclusively as “The Self-Taught Man.” A bailiff’s clerk by trade, he describes himself as a student and frequently demonstrates his passion for knowledge. Antoine discovers early in the novel that he is working his way through the library, book by book, alphabetically. Later, the Self-Taught Man reveals to Antoine not only that he was a prisoner of war but also that his experience as a prisoner has made him become a humanist and a socialist. Their usual political and philosophical dialogue slowly devolves into cruelty; Antoine is highly critical of his views, but Ogier refuses to change his mind. By the end of the novel, it is likely that his life has been ruined: the Corsican, who supervises the library, catches him touching a young boy’s hand. Accused of being a “rotter” and a "fairy," he will likely be unable to continue coming to the library or doing his job.
Marquis de Rollebon
The Marquis de Rollebon is the subject of the history Antoine is writing. Supposedly an ugly man and a great dissembler, he was politically active after the French Revolution. It seems he played a part in the assassination of Paul II, yet the extent of his involvement is never confirmed. Ultimately, Antoine struggles to understand him and begins to believe that the past is totally non-existent.
The Corsican is a small man who works as a sort of security guard in the library. He frequently disciplines children and censors which books they’re allowed to read. We know little about him beyond this, other than that he is aggressive and that his wife works as a concierge in the library. He punches the Self-Taught Man for touching a young boy’s hand at the end of the novel. Importantly, he shares a nickname with Napoleon Bonaparte, who was also called “The Corsican.”
Achille is a man that Antoine observes in a café. He acts erratically and awkwardly. His behavior creates a tense atmosphere in the café, culminating in a doctor describing him as “a loon.” Antoine identifies with Achille’s apparent loneliness, although he condemns Achille for finding comfort in the doctor’s description of him.
Francoise is the patronne of the “Railwaymen’s Rendezvous.” She and Antoine often meet to have sex, but Antoine becomes increasingly disgusted by her body as the novel continues. When he visits her one last time before leaving for Paris, she pays little attention to him and, distracted by another man, forgets to continue their conversation.
Mercier is a mysterious friend of Antoine’s. A memory of Mercier asking Antoine to go on an expedition with him appears repeatedly throughout the novel, and though we never meet Mercier, it seems clear that he has had a profound effect on Antoine’s life.
Sharply criticized by Antoine, Blévigne is an important historical figure in Bouville. He founded the "Club of Order" and was known for suppressing political dissent. Antoine reveals that he was a short man with a squeaky voice.
Lucie is the maid at the hotel where Antoine lives. He overhears her conversation with the proprietress early in the novel and later runs into her on the Avenue Noir, where she is verbally abused by a man. He ignores her.
Nausea Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Nausea is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.