The Proust Questionnaire: Proust

You may have seen “The Proust Questionnaire” that graces the back of Vanity Fair every month. Courtesy of this site, we present Proust’s original responses. We will fill out our own answers now and after we finish the book. For now, we all can enjoy the strange mind of the 13 and 20-year-old Marcel, playing a “parlor game.”

Questionnaire Proust filled out at age 13:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? To be separated from Mama
Where would you like to live? In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal
What is your idea of earthly happiness? To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater
To what faults do you feel most indulgent? To a life deprived of the works of genius
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real
Who are your favorite characters in history? A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry
Who are your favorite heroines in real life? A woman of genius leading an ordinary life
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful
Your favorite painter? Meissonier
Your favorite musician? Mozart
The quality you most admire in a man? Intelligence, moral sense
The quality you most admire in a woman? Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence
Your favorite virtue? All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues
Your favorite occupation? Reading, dreaming, and writing verse
Who would you have liked to be? Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.


Questionnaire Proust filled out at age 20:

Your most marked characteristic? A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
The quality you most like in a man? Feminine charm
The quality you most like in a woman? A man’s virtues, and frankness in friendship
What do you most value in your friends? Tenderness – provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having
What is your principle defect? Lack of understanding; weakness of will
What is your favorite occupation? Loving
What is your dream of happiness? Not, I fear, a very elevated one. I really haven’t the courage to say what it is, and if I did I should probably destroy it by the mere fact of putting it into words.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes? Never to have known my mother or my grandmother
What would you like to be? Myself – as those whom I admire would like me to be
In what country would you like to live? One where certain things that I want would be realized – and where feelings of tenderness would always be reciprocated. [Proust’s underlining]
What is your favorite color? Beauty lies not in colors but in thier harmony
What is your favorite flower? Hers – but apart from that, all
What is your favorite bird? The swallow
Who are your favorite prose writers? At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti
Who are your favorite poets? Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny
Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Hamlet
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction? Phedre (crossed out) Berenice
Who are your favorite composers? Beethoven, Wagner, Shuhmann
Who are your favorite painters? Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt
Who are your heroes in real life? Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors)
Who are your favorite heroines of history? Cleopatra
What are your favorite names? I only have one at a time
What is it you most dislike? My own worst qualities
What historical figures do you most despise? I am not sufficiently educated to say
What event in military history do you most admire? My own enlistment as a volunteer!
What reform do you most admire? (no response)
What natural gift would you most like to possess? Will power and irresistible charm
How would you like to die? A better man than I am, and much beloved
What is your present state of mind? Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
To what faults do you feel most indulgent? Those that I understand
What is your motto? I prefer not to say, for fear it might bring me bad luck.



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