Nausea Summary and Analysis of Saturday noon - Thursday


In the entry for Saturday noon, Antoine observes a schoolboy smile at the Self-Taught Man and then immediately make “a horrible face” at him. The Self-Taught Man blushes, apparently ashamed. We move into Antoine’s reflections: he now believes the question is not whether he has had adventures, but whether he could have had adventures. This leads into a long discussion of his experience with a woman named Edna, the primary conclusion of which is that one can either “live or tell”—i.e. live in the moment or move yourself out of the moment to describe your life as an adventure. Present existence, Antoine thinks, will never have the order or form of memory and narratives of adventure.

On Sunday, Antoine walks and reads Eugenie Grandet. He suddenly has a strange impression that a public park is smiling at him, and to rid himself of this impression, he has to repeat “This is a public park, this is winter, this is Sunday morning.” The phrase “It’s Sunday” leads into a long description of Bouville on Sundays. People of all classes are waking up to go to church; Antoine thinks about the history of the church built by wealthy patrons nearby. The area, called the “Little Prado,” has become gentrified, but Antoine enjoys the sight of an old insecticide shop’s window, still visible even after all the change. He says “it insolently recalled the rights of dirt and vermin.”

With disdain, Antoine watches a group of wealthy people surround Coffier, the president of the Chamber of Commerce. After watching more greetings and comings-and-goings on the streets, Antoine decides to move towards the Brasserie Vezelise. There he attempts to read Eugenie Grandet (liberally quoted by Sartre in the text), but he can’t get through a single passage of dialogue on account of the conversation and noise around him. The romantic drama of the novel mixes with and is mirrored by a real-life conversation between a husband and wife, whose flirtatious conversation disgusts Antoine. When they go silent, Antoine closes his book and decides to leave.

It’s around 3:00 PM, and as the Cine-Eldorado bell rings, Antoine recounts the Sunday rituals of the people in Bouville. He follows the Rue Bressan to where he can see the sea. The crowd is no longer so rigorously divided along class lines, and a lyrical description of the low tide and sun is interwoven with Antoine’s thought that many of these people “were at rest,” preparing themselves for a week of labor ahead. The sun goes down, and among some reported dialogue, a young boy exclaims “Oh, the lighthouse!” At this, Antoine’s “heart swell[s] with a great feeling of adventure.”

There’s a break in the journal. Antoine is now back on the Little Prado, where all the stores are now shut. He has a feeling that is “like the Nausea and yet it’s just the opposite,” and he “sees that it happens that I am myself and that I am here;” he feels “as happy as the hero of a novel.” Some “white milestone” beckons him forward, and he walks to it and touches it. He feels alone and yet thinks of the Nazis currently in Berlin and the unemployed in New York. He moves further towards “the place Ducoton," and finally ends up again at the Café Mably. Sunday ends with Antoine looking at a red-haired waitress’s face in the window; he feels happy and then full of regret.

Monday’s entry continues with this atmosphere of regret. Antoine eviscerates what he has written the day before, critical both of his writing style and his thoughts. He writes, “I got excited like an imbecile. I must wash myself clean with abstract thoughts, transparent as water.” He decides that the feeling of adventure doesn’t come from events themselves but the way events are linked together sequentially. It is “the irreversibility of time.” Anny, Antoine says, had a talent for making this irreversibility felt, and he remembers a night where she delayed meeting him until they only had a single hour together.

At 7:00 pm, Antoine has finished six more pages of his work on Rollebon. He tries to interpret a vague note made by the Marquis about his trip to Ukraine. But unable to get a concrete sense of what Rollebon means, he gently condemns him for being a “rascal” and a liar. We learn that only “A Treatise on Strategy” and “Reflexions on Virtue” are left of Rollebon’s writings. Antoine decides he could imagine the man easily but would have to fictionalize, and at that point, he’d simply be better off writing a novel. At 11:00 pm, Antoine has dined at the “Rendezvous de Cheminots” and had sex with the patroness. He says she “disgusts [him] a little” and describes her body in grotesque, dream-like terms; we learn that he may have fallen asleep on her.

The next entry is on Shrove Tuesday. Also known as Fat Tuesday, this is the day before Lent begins in the Christian calendar. Antoine describes a dream in which he and two others were soldiers and gave Maurice Barres, a French novelist who wrote The Cult of Self, a spanking. Awake now, Antoine learns that Anny has sent him a letter. She says that she’ll be in Paris on February 20th and “must" see him. Sure that he will go to see Anny, but unsure that she will truly be glad to see him (or even there to see him), Antoine goes to eat breakfast.

While eating, he considers their relationship. This newest letter gives him no indication of her feelings, and their last interactions seemed to put a definitive end to their love. Antoine remembers the pressure she put on him to perfect their moments together. He’s lost all memory of her appearance except a quick glimpse at her smile. Their love, Antoine thinks, felt like a way of holding on to experience that was different than memory, but their love now feels out of reach. Suddenly Antoine notices a strange man staring at him. His interactions with the waitress reveal that his name is “Achille”; calling her a “poor girl” under his breath, Achille offends the waitress. Antoine, taken aback, feels akin to Achille; yet they are both alone.

A tense scene of silence follows, only broken by the entrance of Doctor Rogé. The doctor calls Achille “a loon,” at which Achille “smiles with humility… he relaxes, he feels protected against himself. [Antoine is] reassured too.” Yet Antoine becomes ashamed of Achille’s comfort. He criticizes Achille’s belief in the authority of Doctor Rogé’s experience. “Experienced professionals,” to Antoine, are “half-asleep” and believe themselves much wiser than they are. The doctor’s face begins to resemble “a cardboard mask” like those worn by children on Shrove Tuesday. Antoine looks at his sleepy eyes; he thinks the Doctor will die soon. Antoine leaves, and as he is walking away, he thinks of Anny, who was able to “cause dark little tides to be born in our hearts.”


In this second part of Nausea, Sartre begins to show us how language is also related to his existentialist philosophy. When Antoine presents the division between “living and telling,” he’s emphasizing the difference between experience as lived and experience as written. An attempt to grasp experience through language must always recognize the way in which language brings one out of one’s immediate experience.

This may be one reason why Sartre so heavily uses repetition in this section. By repeating “It’s Sunday” (or similar phrases), he brings attention to the words themselves: “it’s Sunday.” We feel how this repetition is a futile attempt at grasping a day that is already slipping away. Each time it is repeated, we get a sense of how language is unable to grasp the moment “in-itself.” This division between language and experience is explicitly tied to making a narrative of one’s experience when Antoine remembers his night with Edna, but as later parts of the novel will show, this separation between living and telling applies to language in general.

We also see here Sartre’s more political side. The scene near the Sainte-Cécile church demonstrates the influence of Marxism on Sartre’s writing. Like many Marxists, Antoine is critical of the bourgeois (the property-owning, middle class) and supportive of the laboring class (also known as the proletariat). The scene early in the morning shows how the upper class’s ostentatious show of religious piety conceals their ruthless ethics and greed. Rather than focusing on church, they seem to be more focused on the chamber of commerce.

The scene by the sea later in the day suggests the intense labor required of the proletariat or working class. Antoine’s attention turns to the crowd’s need for rest, and although there are people from different classes by the sea, they’re no longer divided. The calm, rhythmic prose of this section and the less-pessimistic mood gives a reader a sense of community and togetherness. Indeed, we might even see the sea as a symbol of this fluidity: rather than existing in rigid separation from one another, the people in this scene mix with one another, flowing like waves and currents.

This section also might help us understand another important aspect of existentialist philosophy: the concept of "facticity." Facticity is the whole of what comprises the "givens" of a human's life. This might include personal history, social position, culture of birth, or other people's beliefs about you. When the doctor, whose profession it is to diagnose patients, claims that Achille is a loon, and Achille accepts this definition, he is falling back into his facticity and becoming comfortable in a socially given identity. Sartre hopes humans will strive to "transcend" (go beyond) their facticity through action.

A doctor’s off-hand diagnosis is a perfect example of something one might unthinkingly accept when it comes from an authoritative figure. Antoine’s criticism of the doctor also has a political edge, as French intellectuals had, at the time Nausea was written, become critical of the psychiatric institutions in France. Again, we see Sartre showing that politics and existentialism can be linked.