The novel is based on the principle of diary entries of the protagonist Antoine Roquantin, who traveled to Central Europe, North Africa, the Far East and for three years already settled in the city of Buleville to complete his historical research on the Marquise de Roelbon, who lived in the XVIII century.
At the beginning of January 1932, Antoine Rokanten suddenly began to feel a change in himself. He is overwhelmed by a kind of sensation, unknown to this day, like an easy attack of insanity. For the first time it covers it on the seashore, when it is going to throw pebbles into the water. The stone seems alien to him, but alive. All the objects on which the hero holds his gaze, seem to him living their own lives, intrusive and thawing danger. This condition often prevents Rokanten
Ten years ago, when Rokanten only found out about the marquis, he literally fell in love with him and after many years of traveling around the globe he decided to settle in Buleville three years ago, where a rich archive was collected in the city library: letters of the marquis, part of his diary, various kinds of documents. However, more recently, he begins to feel that the Marquis de Rolbón was fatally bored. True, in the view of Rocantena, the Marquis de Rolbón is the only excuse for his own meaningless existence.
More and more often it is overtaken by a new state for which the name “nausea” most suits. She rolls on Rokanten with bouts, and there are fewer and fewer places where he can hide from her. Even in a cafe where he often goes, among people he does not manage to hide from her. He asks the waitress to put a record with his favorite song “Some of these days”. Music widens, grows, fills the hall with its metallic transparency, and Nausea disappears. Rokanten is happy. He ponders what he would have achieved if the fabric of the melody was
Rokanten often remembers his beloved Annie, whom he left six years ago. After several years of silence, he suddenly receives a letter from her in which Annie says that in a few days she will be traveling in Paris, and she needs to see him. In the letter there is no appeal, for example “dear Antoine”, nor usual polite farewell. He will know in this her love of perfection. She always strove to embody “perfect moments”. Some moments in her eyes had a hidden meaning, which had to be “extracted” from him and brought to perfection. But Rokanten always fell into a mess, and at that moment Annie hated him. When they were together, all three years, they did not allow a single moment, be it moments of sorrow or happiness, to separate from them and become past. They kept everything in themselves. Probably,
During the daytime, Antoine Rokanten often works in the reading room of the Buleville library. In 1930, he also met some Ogier P., a clerical employee, who was nicknamed Samouchka, because he spent all his free time in the library and studied all books available here in alphabetical order. This Samoucha invites Rokanten to have dinner with him, for, apparently, he is going to tell him something very important. Before closing the library on Rokantena again nauseated Nausea. He goes out in the hope that fresh air will help him get rid of it, looks at the world, all things seem to him somehow unsteady, as if exhausted, he senses that a threat looms over the city. How fragile it seems to him all the obstacles in the world! For one night, the world can change beyond recognition, and does not do it just because, that he was lazy. However, at the moment the world looks as if he wants to become different. And in this case everything can happen, absolutely everything. Rokanten fancies, like a small pimple on the cheek of a child hatching a third, mocking eye, as the tongue in his mouth turns into a monstrous centipede. To Рокантену it is terrible. Fits of horror rolling on him and in his room, and in the city garden, and in a cafe, and on the beach.
Rokanten goes to the museum, where the portraits of world-famous husbands hang. There he feels his mediocrity, the unreasonableness of his existence, realizes that he will not write a book about Rolbond. He simply can not write any more. Before him, suddenly, the question arises, where can he put his life? The Marquis de Rolleon was his ally, he needed Rokanten to exist, Rokanten – in him, so as not to feel his existence. He ceased to notice that he himself existed; he existed in the guise of the Marquis. And now this nausea that has rolled on him has become his existence, from which he can not get rid, which he is forced to drag on.
On Wednesday, Rokanten goes with Samouchka in a cafe to eat lunch in the hope that he will be able to get rid of Nausea for a while. Samoucha tells him about his understanding of life and argues with Rokanten, assuring him that there is not the slightest point in existence. The self-taught person considers herself a humanist and assures that the meaning of life is a love for people. He talks about how, once a prisoner of war, once in a camp he got into a barrack crammed full of men, how he “condescended to love” these people, he wanted to hug them all. And each time, getting into this hut, even when it was empty, Samouchka experienced inexpressible delight. He clearly confuses the ideals of humanism with feelings of a homosexual nature, Rokanten again overwhelmed by Nausea, his behavior, he even frightens Samouchka and other visitors to the cafe. Very inadvertently taking his leave,
Soon in the library there is a scandal. One of the library attendants, who has been following Samouchka for a long time, catches him when he sits in the company of two little boys and strokes one of them on his arm, accuses him of baseness, of sticking to children, and, giving him a fist in the nose, With shame, he expels from the library, threatening to call the police.
On Saturday, Rocanthen arrives in Paris and meets with Annie. For six years, Annie has grown very tired, she has a tired look. It has changed not only externally, but also internally. She is no longer obsessed with “perfect moments”, for she realized that there will always be someone who will spoil them. Previously, she believed that there are certain emotions, states: Love, Hatred, Death, which generate “winning situations” – the building material for “perfect moments”, and now realized that these feelings are inside her. Now she remembers the events of her life and builds them, something that is correcting, into a chain of “perfect moments.” However, she herself does not live in the present, considers herself a “living dead.” Rokanten’s hopes for a renewal of relations with Annie are falling, she is leaving for London with a man, who is on maintenance, and Rokanten intends to permanently move to Paris. He is still tormented by the sense of the absurdity of his existence, the consciousness that he is “superfluous”.
Arriving in Bouville, to collect things and pay for the hotel, Rokanten enters the cafe, where he spent a lot of time before. His favorite song, which he asks to be farewell to, makes him think about her author, about the singer who performs it. He feels deep tenderness towards them. He seems to find an insight, and he sees a way that will help him to reconcile with himself, with his existence. He decides to write a novel. If at least someone in the whole world, after reading it, like that, with tenderness, think about his author, Antoine Rokanten will be happy.