Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sartre’s Search for a Title: from Melancholia to Nausea

Jean-Paul Sartre had given the name Melancholia to the novel on which he was working in the 1930s. But his publisher for the book, Gaston Gallimard, felt that Melancholia was not commercial enough and he advised Sartre to find a better title.

Sartre suggested Factum on Contingency as an alternative. This had been the title that he had given to his earliest notes for his book in 1932. He also came up with a longer title, Essay on the Loneliness of the Mind. But Gallimard was repelled by these suggestions. Sartre then suggested a new kind of title: The Extraordinary Adventures of Antoine Roquentin. He told Gallimard that the blurb would offer an intricate explanation of there being no adventures.

Finally Gallimard himself came up with a uncomplicated and riveting title Nausea. Sartre liked the suggestion and Nausea became the title of his book. When the book was published in 1938, it was well received by critics and readers. In my opinion, there is little literary value in Sartre’s novel. Albert Camus and even Simone de Beauvoir are more natural fiction writers. However, I think Nausea is a better title than Melancholia. Gallimard did a service to Sartre by suggesting this title.

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