Have you heard of the Proust Questionnaire? It is basically a personality interview made famous by the answers provided by Marcel Proust a French writer, at the end of the nineteenth century. Proust was asked to fill out the questionnaire at social events when he was 13, and again when he was 20.
The questions varied a bit between the two questionnaires as did his answers which indicated his personality change over the course of 7 years.
Over the years, tv hosts have given the questionnaire to guests, and more recently, the magazine Vanity Fair is known for publishing a similar questionnaire answered by various celebrities.
There is even a Proust Questionnaire Archive where you can submit your answers online to be preserved for posterity. Your answers will be archived at the Internet Archive and a copy will be kept at the New Library of Alexandria in Egypt. You can fill out the questionnaire multiple times over time to document how your attitudes and opinions changed; it is intended to be a long term project.
Below are the questions that Proust had to fill out both times, and I’m sharing my answers too.
Questionnaire Proust filled out at age 13:
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Proust: To be separated from Mama
My answer: Losing a loved one
Where would you like to live?
Proust: In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal
My answer: In a country house with lots of land and animals, a quiet place but not in the middle of nowhere, with access to a city.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Proust: 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
Your answer: Good food, good wine, hot tubs, views of the mountains, good movies and theaters, tea and dessert, exploring new cities and countries, museums, fireplaces, Meherabad, receiving mail, and kitty snuggles.
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?
Proust: Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real
My answer: Harry Potter and Doctor Who
Who are your favorite characters in history?
Proust: A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry
My answer: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Mozart, Gandhi, Francis of Assisi
Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
Proust: A woman of genius leading an ordinary life
Your answer: Mani Irani, and my mom
Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Proust: Those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way beautiful
Your answer: Hermione Granger (Can you tell I’m a HP fan?)
Your favorite painter?
Your answer: Van Gogh, but I have many
Your favorite musician?
Your answer: The Beatles (Mozart and Tchaikovsky are close too)
The quality you most admire in a man?
Proust: Intelligence, moral sense
Your answer: Honesty and kindness
The quality you most admire in a woman?
Proust: Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence
Your answer: Sense of humour, laid-backness
Your favorite virtue?
Proust: All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues
Your answer: Compassion
Your favorite occupation?
Proust: Reading, dreaming, and writing verse
Your answer: eating, movie watching, and dancing
Who would you have liked to be?
Proust: 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.
Your answer: I never really dream of being somebody else.
Questionnaire Proust filled out at age 20:
Questions which are identical or nearly identical to questions from the previous questionnaire were omitted.
Your most marked characteristic?
Proust: A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
Your answer: Being short?
What do you most value in your friends?
Proust: Tenderness – provided they possess a physical charm which makes their tenderness worth having
Your answer: That we remain friends no matter space and time.
What is your principle defect?
Proust: Lack of understanding; weakness of will
Your answer: My wandering mind while listening. My lack of sense of direction. My occasional stubbornness. My desire to be liked.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Proust: Never to have known my mother or my grandmother
Your answer: Being lost at sea and not believing in God.
What would you like to be?
Proust: Myself – as those whom I admire would like me to be
Your answer: Free and detached
What is your favorite color?
Proust: Beauty lies not in colors but in their harmony
Your answer: Almost all of them
What is your favorite flower?
Proust: Hers – but apart from that, all
Your answer: Tulips, lantanas, roses, and carnations.
What is your favorite bird?
Proust: The swallow
Your answer: Bluebirds, peafowls, owls and bald eagles.
Who are your favorite prose writers?
Proust: At the moment, Anatole France and Pierre Loti
Your answer: Since nowadays prose is hard to identify I’ll just say my favourite writers in general: Nick Hornby, Paulo Coelho, Meher Baba.
Who are your favorite poets?
Proust: Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny
Your answer: Hafiz, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Who are your heroes in real life?
Proust: Monsieur Darlu, Monsieur Boutroux (professors)
Your answer: My hubby
Who are your favorite heroines of history?
Your answer: Mother Theresa, Clara Barton
What are your favorite names?
Proust: I only have one at a time
Your answer: I don’t know
What is it you most dislike?
Proust: My own worst qualities
Your answer: Arguing, discomfort, helplessness (when it comes to others).
What historical figures do you most despise?
Proust: I am not sufficiently educated to say
Your answer: I don’t despise anyone.
What event in military history do you most admire?
Proust: My own enlistment as a volunteer!
Your answer: Whoever and if ever anyone decided not to start war.
What natural gift would you most like to possess?
Proust: Will power and irresistible charm
Your answer: Being able to accurately express my thoughts and feelings.
How would you like to die?
Proust: A better man than I am, and much beloved
Your answer: In my sleep.
What is your present state of mind?
Proust: Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
Your answer: Content.
What is your motto?
Proust: I prefer not to say, for fear it might bring me bad luck.
Your answer: “Want nothing and you will have everything.”
Are you up for the challenge? Feel free to answer these in your own blog and link back because I’d love to read them.