It’s time for my annual reading of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea. Each time I read Nausea I’m transported to the salt marshes of Brittany where one summer, with credit to the poet Léon-Paul Fargue for the metaphor, I kissed the sea on the lips with my first oyster and was dazzled by the thought-experiment that is Nausea. I have sentences and whole passages of Robert Baldrick’s translation imperfectly memorised.
A perfect day to turn in upon oneself: these cold rays which the sun projects like a pitiless judgement on all creatures enter into me through my eyes; I am illuminated within by an impoverishing light. A quarter of an hour would be enough, I feel sure, for me to attain a feeling of supreme self-contempt. No, thank you very much, I can do without that. Nor shall I reread what I wrote yesterday about Rollebon’s stay in St Petersburg. I remain seated, my arms dangling, or else I write a few words, rather dispiritedly; I yawn, I wait for night to fall. When it is dark, the objects and I will come out of limbo.
As Camus wrote of Nausea, each of the book’s chapters, taken by itself, “reaches a kind of perfection in bitterness and truth.”