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David Heinemeier Hansson (Co-Founder/Basecamp)
Existentialists like Sartre are big on the idea that you can’t just relate a philosophical worldview by simply stating values, techniques, and facts. To understand existentialism, you must feel it. Breathe its ambience. It’s like a tonal curve for life. Yes, we can talk about highlights, shadows, and all the mechanical elements of that tonal curve, but you won’t become an artist just by knowing these mechanics. It goes much deeper than that.
So Nausea is a novel, which imparts the existentialist tonal curve. I’m only halfway through it, but I’m liking it a lot already. It’s not as wild or erratic as Notes from Underground, but it’s got that similar feel. That the narrator gives us a mirror to reflect in, and those reflections are novel because we’re outside the normal tonal curve.
Sartre's greatest novel ― and existentialism's key text ― now introduced by James Wood.
Nausea is the story of Antoine Roquentin, a French writer who is horrified at his own existence. In impressionistic, diary form he ruthlessly catalogs his every feeling and sensation. His thoughts culminate in a pervasive, overpowering feeling of nausea which “spreads at the bottom of the viscous puddle, at the bottom of our time ― the time of purple suspenders and broken chair seats; it is made of wide, soft instants, spreading at the edge, like an oil stain.”
Winner of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature (though he declined to accept it), Jean-Paul Sartre ― philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist ― holds a position of singular eminence in the world of French letters. La Nausée, his first and best novel, is a landmark in Existential fiction and a key work of the twentieth century.