Play it again, Sam.
Madeleine, will you put the record on again? Just once.
Play it again, Sam, says Jean-Paul Sartre’s character Antoine Roquentin in the novel Nausea. Well not exactly. What he says is: “Madeleine, will you put the record on again? Just once, before I leave.”
For 250 pages of the novel, Roquentin rants against existence and searches for meaning in his life.
His girlfriend Anny tells him dully, “I am outliving myself.” And Roquentin asks himself: “What can I say to her? Do I know any reasons for living?”
So Roquentin, at age 30, contemplates his life ahead: “What am I going to do all day?”
Then in the last three pages of Nausea, Sartre, who later wrote Being and Nothingness, the philosophical treatise that underpinned existentialism, allowed Roquentin a glimmer of hope.
A waitress in a bar calls to him: “Your record, Monsieur Antoine, the one you like, do you want to hear it?”
The record ends, and Roquentin is imagining the man who wrote …