Sunday, September 30, 2007

Proust Questionnaire

Proust Questionnaire and for your characters too

The young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he simply responded to the questionnaires. At the birthday party of Antoinette Felix-Faure, the 13-year-old Marcel was asked to answer the following questions in the birthday book, and here's what he said:

  • 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.

Seven years after the first questionnaire, Proust was asked, at another social event, to fill out another; the questions are much the same, but the answers somewhat different, indicative of his traits at 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, Schumann
  • 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?
and my thanks to:-

Personal site of Stephane Chabrieres: my literary translations, wood sculptures, favorite books, rock albums, movies, paintings, existentialism:

"IT IS A GOOD VIEWPOINT TO SEE THE WORLD AS A DREAM. WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING LIKE A NIGHTMARE, YOU WILL WAKE UP AND TELL YOURSELF THAT IT WAS ONLY A DREAM. IT IS SAID THE WORLD WE LIVE IN IS NOT A BIT DIFFERENT FROM THIS."

No comments: