The Nausea

What if something were to happen? What if all of a sudden it started palpitating? Then they would notice it was there and they would think that their hearts were going to burst. What use would their dykes and ramparts and power-houses and pile-drivers be to them then? That may happen at any time, straight away perhaps: the omens are there. For example, the father of a family may go for a walk, and he will see a red rag coming towards him across the street, as if the wind were blowing it, And when the rag gets close to him, he will see that it is a quarter of rotten meat, covered with dust, crawling and hopping along, a piece of tortured flesh rolling in the gutters and spasmodically shooting out jets of blood. Or else a mother may look at her child’s cheek and ask him: ‘What’s that – a pimple?’ And she will see the flesh puff up slightly, crack and split open, and at the bottom of the split a third eye, a laughing eye, will appear. Or else they will feel something gently brushing against their bodies, like the caresses reeds give swimmers in a river. And they will realise that their clothes have become living things. And somebody else will feel scratching inside his mouth. And he will go to a mirror, open his mouth: and his tongue will have become a huge living centipede, rubbing its legs together and scraping his palate. He will try to spit it out, but the centipede will be part of himself and he will have to tear it out with his hands. And hosts of things  will appear for which people will have to find new names – a stone-eye, a big three-cornered arm, a toe-crutch, a spider-jaw, and somebody who has gone to sleep in his comfortable bed, in his quiet warm bedroom, will wake up naked on a bluish patch of earth, in a forest of rustling pricks, rising all red and white towards the sky like the chimneys of Jouxtebouville, with big testicles half way out of the ground, hairy and bulbous, like onions. And birds will flutter around these pricks and peck at them with their beaks and make them bleed. Sperm will flow slowly, gently, from these wounds, sperm mingled with blood, warm and vitreous with little bubbles. Or else nothing like that will happen, no appreciable change will take place, but one morning when people open their blinds they will be surprised by a sort of horrible feeling brooding heavily over things and giving the impression of waiting. Just that: but if it lasts a little while, there will be hundreds of suicides. Well, yes, let things change a little, just to see, I ask for  nothing better. Then we shall see other people suddenly plunged into solitude. Men all alone, entirely alone, with horrible monstrosities, will run through the streets, will go clumsily past me, their eyes staring, fleeing from their ills and carrying them with them, open-mouthed, with their tongue-insect beating its wings. Then I shall burst out laughing, even if my own body is covered with filthy, suspicious-looking scabs blossoming into fleshy flowers, violets and buttercups. I shall lean against a wall and as they go by I shall shout to them: ‘ What have you done with your science? What have you done with your humanism? Where is your dignity as a thinking reed?’ I shan’t be afraid – or at least no more than I am now. Won’t it still be existence, variations on existence? All those eyes which will slowly eat up a face – no doubt they will be superfluous, but no more superfluous than the first two. Existence is what I am afraid of.

– Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

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