Answering the Proust Questionnaire

February 1, 2016

Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust

Legend has it that 13-year-old Marcel Proust answered fifteen questions in the birthday book of Antoinette Felix-Faure. Seven years later, at another social event, he completed another questionnaire. Ah, parlor games!

Over the years, Vanity Fair and other magazines have featured a version or another of this questionnaire, now called the “Proust Questionnaire.”

In the wake of David Bowie’s death last month, his answers to the Vanity Fair version were circulated by Maria Popova on her wonderful Brain Pickings blog.

I decided it would be fun to answer a version that closely approximates the original version Proust completed.

Name: Scott Edward Anderson
Date the questions were answered: 30 January 2016
Age: 52
Village / Town / City you live in: Brooklyn, NY
Occupation: Consultant and Poet

(The questions include Marcel Proust’s answers)

 

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Proust: To be separated from Mama

Scott Edward Anderson (SEA): To be without love.

 

Where would you like to live?

Proust: In the country of the Ideal, or, rather, of my ideal

SEA: I’m happy where I am right now in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. It feels like home to me. 

 

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

SEA: Cooking and eating a good meal with my wife after a nice long hike in the woods, enjoying a great glass of wine or a Hendricks martini, and retiring to the living room to read some poetry or listen to favorite music by the fire.

 

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

Proust: To a life deprived of the works of genius

SEA: I am intolerant of ignorance and authority and, most especially, ignorant authority.

 

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

SEA My favorite heroes are always creative travelers in strange lands who survive by their wits and wiles.

 

Who are your favorite male characters in history?

Proust: A mixture of Socrates, Pericles, Mahomet, Pliny the Younger and Augustin Thierry

SEA: Teddy Roosevelt

 

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?

Proust: A woman of genius leading an ordinary life

SEA: Billie Holiday and Elizabeth Bishop

 

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

SEA: Same as heroes: Creative travelers in strange lands who survive by their wits and wiles.

 

Your favorite painter(s)?

Proust: Meissonier

SEA: Monet and Vermeer

 

Your favorite musician?

Proust: Mozart

SEA: The Beatles

 

The quality you most admire in a man?

Proust: Intelligence, moral sense

SEA: Integrity and creativity

 

The quality you most admire in a woman?

Proust: Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence

SEA: Integrity and creativity

 

Your favorite virtue?

Proust: All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues

SEA: Diligence

 

Your favorite occupation?

Proust: Reading, dreaming, and writing verse

SEA: Add walking in the woods to what Proust said.

 

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.

SEA: A better friend to some, a better man at times, a better husband to my wife, and a better father to my children.

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