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Sartrean Quotes : Nausea

Jean-Paul Sartre. Nausea. Trans. Lloyd Alexander. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1964.

I live alone, entirely alone. I never speak to anyone, never; I receive nothing, I give nothing… When you live alone you no longer know what it is to tell something: the plausible disappears at the same time as the fiends. You let events flow past; suddenly you see people pop up who speak and who go away, you plunge into stories without beginning or end: you make a terrible witness. But in compensation, one misses nothing, no improbability or, story too tall to be believed in cafes. [14-5]

Objects should not touch because they are not alive. You use them, put them back in place, you live among them. They are useful nothing more. But they touch me, it is unbearable. I am afraid of being in contact with them as though they were living beasts. [19]

People who live in society have learned to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Is that why my flesh is naked? You might say - yes you might say, nature without humanity… Things are bad! Things are very bad: I have it, the filth, the Nausea. [29]

The Nausea is not inside me: I feel it out there in the wall, in the suspenders, everywhere around me. It makes itself one with the café, I am the one who is within it. [31]

I grow warm, I begin to feel happy. There is nothing extraordinary in this, it is a small happiness of Nausea: it spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of out time - the time of purple suspenders, and broken chair seats; it is made of white, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain. No sooner than born, it is already old, it seems as though I have known it for twenty years. [33]

I tear myself from the window and stumble across the room; I glue myself against the looking glass. I stare at myself, I disgust myself: one more eternity. Finally, I flee form my image and fall on the bed. I watch the ceiling I'd like to sleep. [46]

I am all alone, but I march like a regiment descending on a city… I am full of anguish: the slightest movement irks me. I can't imagine what they want with me. Yet I must choose: I surrender to the Passage Gillet, I shall never know what has been reserved for me. [77]

Nothing seemed true; I felt surrounded by cardboard scenery which could quickly be removed…. [106-7]

I can't say I feel relieved or satisfied, just the opposite, I am crushed. Only my goal is reached: I know what I have to know; I have understood all that has happened to me since January. The Nausea has not left me and I don't believe it will leave me so soon; but I no longer have to bear it, it is no longer an illness or a passing fit: it is I. [170]


The thing which was waiting was on alert, it pounced on me, it flows through me. I'm filled with it. It's nothing: I am the Thing. Existence, liberated, detached, floods over me. I exist. [134]

I hadn't the right to exist. I appeared by chance, I exited like a stone, a plant or a microbe. My life put out feelers towards small pleasures in every direction. Sometimes it sent out vague signals; at other times, I felt nothing more than a harmless buzzing… he (Jean Pacome) had used his right to live… He has always done his duty, is duty as son, husband, father, leader…For a right is nothing more than the other aspect of duty. [115-6]

I exist. It's sweet, so sweet, so slow. And light: you'd think it floated all by itself. It stirs. It brushes by me, melts and vanishes. Gently, gently. There is bubbling water in my throat, it caresses me- and now it comes up again into my mouth. For ever I shall have a little pool of whitish water in my mouth - lying low - grazing my tongue. And this pool is still me. And the tongue. And the throat is me. [134]

My thought is me: that's why I can't stop. I exist because I think… and I can't stop myself from thinking. At this very moment - it's frightful - if I exist, it is because I am horrified at existing. I am the one who pulls myself from the nothingness to which I aspire. [135-6]

I am. I am. I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I think that I don't want to be, I think that I … because … ugh! I flee. [137] I exist, that's all. And that trouble is so vague, so metaphysical that I am ashamed of it. [143]

I was just thinking … that here we sit, all of us, eating and drinking to preserve our precious existence and really there is nothing, nothing absolutely no reason for existing. [157]

I realized that there was no halfway house between non-existence and this flaunting abundance. If you existed, you had to exist all the way, as far as mouldness, bloatedness, obscenity were concerned. [172]

The world of explanations and reasons is not the world of existence. [174]

The essential thing is contingency. I mean that one cannot define existence as a necessity. To exist is simply to be there; those who exist let themselves be encountered, but you can never deduce anything from them. I believe that there are people who have understood this. Only they tried to overcome this contingency by inventing a necessary, causal being. But no necessary being can explain existence: contingency is not a delusion, a probability, which can be dissipated; it is the absolute, consequently, the perfect free gift. All is free, this park, this city, and myself. [176]

Existence is not something which lets itself be thought of form a distance; it must invade you suddenly, master you, weigh heavily on your heart like a great motionless beast - or else there is nothing at all. [177]

They did not want to exist; only they could not help it. [179] It was impossible for them not to exist. [181]

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance, [180]

Existence is a fulness which man can never abandon. [180]

Existence is what I am afraid of. [214]

To do something is to create existence - and there is quite enough existence a sit is. [228]

An existant can never justify the existence of another existant. [237]

Now when I say "I," it seems hollow to me. I can't manage to feel myself very well, I am so forgotten. The only real thing left in me is existence which feels it exists... Consciousness forgotten, forsaken between these walls, under this grey sky. And here is the sense o fits existence: it is conscious of being superfluous. [227]

There is knowledge of the consciousness. It sees through itself, peaceful and empty between the walls, freed from the man who inhabited it; monstrous because empty. [228]

And I too wanted to be. That is all I wanted; and this is the last word. At the bottom of all these attempts which seemed without bounds, I find the same desire again: to drive existence out of me, to rid the passing moments of their fat, to twist them, dry them, purify myself, harden myself, to give back at last the sharp, precise sound of a saxophone note. That could even make an apologue: there was a poor man who got in the wrong world. [234]

Behind the existence which falls from one present to the other, without a past, without a future, behind these sounds which decompose from day to day, peel off and slip towards death, the melody stays the same, young and firm, like a pitiless witness.


The doctor would like to believe, he would like to hide out the stark reality: that he is alone, without gain, without a past, with an intelligence which is clouded, a body which is disintegrating. For this reason, he has carefully built up, furnished, and peddled his nightmare compensation: he says he is making progress. [96-97]

He (M. de Rollebon) needed me in order to exist and I needed him so as not to feel my existence. [133]

People who live in society have learned to see themselves in mirrors as they appear to their friends. Is that why my flesh is naked? You might say - yes you might say, nature without humanity… Things are bad! Things are very bad: I have it, the filth, the Nausea. [29]

I am. I am. I exist, I think, therefore I am; I am because I think that I don't want to be, I think that I … because … ugh! I flee. they will have to find something else to veil the enormous absurdity of their existence. Still… is it absolutely necessary to lie? [150]

It would be better if I could only stop thinking. Thoughts are the dullest things. Duller than flesh. [135]

What held me back was the thought that no one, absolutely no one, would be moved by my death, that I would be more alone in death than in life. [157]

In your most insignificant actions, there is an enormous amount of heroism. [161]

And I might succeed - in the past, nothing but the past - in accepting myself. [238]


Without mental reservation, I admired the reign of man. [123]

I do not believe in God… But in the internment camp, I learned to believe in men. [154]

The misanthrope is a man: therefore the humanist must be misanthropic to a certain extent. But he must be a scientist as well to have learned how to water down his hatred, and hate men only to love them better afterwards…I believe that one cannot hate a man more than one can love him. [160]

It is difficult, Monsieur, very difficult to be a man. [161]

In your most insignificant actions, there is an enormous amount of heroism. [161]

I am alone in this white, garden-rimmed street. Alone and free. But this freedom is rather like death. [209]

I am going to outlive myself. Eat, sleep, sleep, eat. Exist slowly, softly, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red bench in the streetcar. [210]


"What sort of adventures?" I asked him, astonished. "All sorts, Monsieur. Getting on the wrong train. Stopping in an unknown city. Losing your briefcase, being arrested by mistake, spending the night in prison. Monsieur, I believe the word adventure could be defined: an event out of ordinary without being necessarily extraordinary. [52]

Adventure - it was an event which happened to me… I never had adventures. Things have happened to me, events, incidents, anything you like. But no adventures. [53]

I have suddenly learned without apparent reason, that I have been lying to myself for ten years. And naturally, everything they tell about in books can happen in real life, but not in the same way. It is to this way of happening that I clung so tightly. [54]

But an adventure never returns nor is prolonged. [55]

This is what I thought: for the most banal event to become an adventure, you must (and this is enough) begin to recount it. This is what fools people: a man is always a teller of tales, he lives surrounded by his stories and the stories of others, he sees everything that happens to him through them; and he tries to live his own life as if he were telling a story. But you have to choose: live or tell. [56]

But for me there is neither Monday nor Sunday: there are days which pass in disorder, and then, sudden lightning like this one. Nothing has changed and yet everything is different. I can't describe it, it's like the Nausea and yet it's just the opposite: at last an adventure happens to me and when I question myself I see that it happens that I am myself and that I am here; I am the one who splits in the night, I am as happy as the hero of a novel. [76]

We forget that the future was not yet there; the man was walking in the night without forethought, a night which offered him a choice of dull rich prizes, and he did not make his choice.

Perhaps there is nothing in the world I cling to as much as this feeling of adventure; but it comes when it pleases; it is gone so quickly and how empty I am once it has left. [78]

This feeling of adventure definitely does not come form events: I have proved it. It's rather the way in which the moments are linked together. [79]

The privileged situation, slowly, majestically, comes into other people's lives. Then the question on whether you want to make a great moment out of it. [198]

On PHENOMENOLOGY (Past, Present, Future)

Things are entirely what they appear to be- and behind them … there is nothing. [13]

Nothing happens while you live. The scenery changes, people come in and go out, that's all. There are no beginnings. Days are tacked on to days without rhyme or reason, an interminable, monotonous addition. [57]

My memories are like coins in the devil's purse: when you open it you find only dead leaves. [47]

I build memories with my present self. I am cast out, forsaken in the present; I vainly try to rejoin the past: I cannot escape. [49]

The past is a landlord's luxury. Where shall I keep mine? You don't put your past in your pocket; you have to have a house. I have only my body: a man entirely aloen, with his lonely body, cannot indulge in memories; they pass through him. I should not complain: all I wanted was to be free. [91]

How can I, who have not the strength to hold to my own past, hope to save the past of someone else? [130]

The true nature of the present revealed itself: it was what exists, and all that was not present did not exist. The past did not exist. Not at all. Not in things, not even in my thought. [130]

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