An excerpt from the novel, Nausea
An excerpt from French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's novel, Nausea (La Nausée); a prose work that attempted to portray and dramatize some of the key concerns of existential philosophy:
I haven't had any adventures. Things have happened to me, events, incidents, anything you like. But not adventures. It isn't a matter of words; I am beginning to understand. There is something I longed for more than all the rest - without realizing it properly. It wasn't love, heaven forbid, nor glory, nor wealth. It was... anyway, I had imagined that at certain moments my life could take on a rare and precious quality. There was no need for extraordinary circumstances: all I asked for was a little order. There is nothing very splendid about my life at present: but now and then, for example when they played music at cafés, I would look back and say to myself: in the old days, in London, Meknès, Tokyo, I have known wonderful moments, I have had adventures. It is that which has been taken away from me now. I have just learnt, all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, that I have been lying to myself for ten years. Adventures are in books. And naturally, everything they tell you about in books can happen in real life, but not in the same way. It was to this way of happening that I attached so much importance.
First of all the beginnings would have had to be real beginnings. Alas! Now I can see so clearly what I wanted. Real beginnings, appearing like a fanfare of trumpets, like the first notes of a jazz tune, abruptly, cutting boredom short, strengthening duration; evenings among those evenings of which you later say: 'I was out walking, it was an evening in May.' You are walking along, the moon has just risen, you feel idle, vacant, a little empty. And then all of a sudden you think: 'Something has happened.' It might be anything: a slight crackling sound in the shadows, a fleeting silhouette crossing the street, But this slight event isn't like the others: straight away you see that it is the predecessor of a great form whose outlines are lost in the mist and you tell yourself too: 'Something is beginning.'
Something begins in order to end: an adventure doesn't let itself be extended; it achieves significance only through its death. Towards this death, which may also be my own, I am drawn irrevocably. Each moment appears only to bring on the moments after. To each moment I cling with all my heart: I know that it is unique, irreplaceable - and yet I would not lift a finger to prevent it from being annihilated. The last minute I am spending - in Berlin, in London - in the arms of this woman whom I met two days ago - a minute I love passionately, a woman I am close to loving - it is going to come to an end, I know that. In a little while I shall leave for another country. I shall never find this woman again or this night. I study each second, I try to suck it dry; nothing passes which I do not seize, which I do not fix forever within me, nothing, neither the ephemeral tenderness of these lovely eyes, nor the noises in the street, nor the false light of dawn: and yet the minute goes by and I do not hold it back, I am glad to see it pass.
Jean-Paul Sartre, NauseaTranslated by Robert Baldick