The Proust Questionnaire

by nike, November 14, 2014
Marcel Proust in 1900

Marcel Proust

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A blank page. A good book. Stimulating conversation.

The pleasure of learning something new.

The pleasure of giving someone the thing they most need.

What is your most marked characteristic?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Learning to read.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing love.

What historical figure do you most identify with?
Not Marcel Proust, certainly.

Which living person do you most admire?
My sister.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My daughters, my sons

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

What is your favorite journey?
The journey home.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

(I should clarify here that what I am thinking of most is the kind of honesty that does more harm than good, and is rendered invisible as violent and cruel because it is called honesty. So, outing people without their consent, or criticising others for having been ‘in the closet’ for any part of their lives. Invading another’s privacy, and disrespecting their right to privacy and discretion.)

Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

What is your greatest regret?
Not learning enough when I was younger. Languages, in particular. I would like to be fluent in at least ten different languages.

What is your current state of mind?

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
The distances that separate us from each other.

What is your most treasured possession?
My sanity.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Reading a book that has been highly recommended, only to discover it is awful. Or, worse, seeing a book I believe to be awful get glowing reviews and win awards.

Where would you like to live?
In comfort and plenty

What is your favorite occupation?
A walk along the beach at sunset, knowing that at home afterwards there will be good food, good wine, and good company.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What are your favorite names?
Huckepack, Naseweis, Packe, Pick, Puck, Purzelbaum, Rumpelbold.

What is your motto?
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. [Annie Dillard. The Writing Life]


Your turn! If you have a blog, I’d love to see your answers to these questions posted there. Don’t forget to come back and post a link to your responses!

In the 1880s, long before he claimed his status as one of the greatest authors of all time, teenage Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871–November 18, 1922) filled out an English-language questionnaire given to him by his friend Antoinette, the daughter of France’s then-president, as part of her “confession album” — a Victorian version of today’s popular personality tests, designed to reveal the answerer’s tastes, aspirations, and sensibility in a series of simple questions. Proust’s original manuscript, titled “by Marcel Proust himself,” wasn’t discovered until 1924, two years after his death. Decades later, the French television host Bernard Pivot, whose work inspired James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, saw in the questionnaire an excellent lubricant for his interviews and began administering it to his guests in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993, Vanity Fair resurrected the tradition and started publishing various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of each issue. (Brain Pickings Weekly)

1 Comment

  • Ceridwen Dovey's wonderful article in The Monthly (The Pencil and the Damage Done) has some really wonderful things to say about what I am increasingly inclined the call the 'cult of honesty' and the damage it can cause.

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