Marcel Proust‘s answers to a series of questions about personality and values were originally recorded in 1890, when Proust was 21 or thereabouts. The Wikipage says the name and popularity of the Proust questionnaire is “owed to the responses given by Proust.” Vanity Fair publishes a one-page Proust Questionnaire at the back of each issue. (Why is “n” used twice in Questionnaire?) What follows is a selective HE run-through with variations.
Your greatest source of emotional comfort?: Being with my wife when she’s in a good mood. Walking around Rome or Paris or Hanoi without purpose. A warm, not-too-crowded cafe with lightning-fast wifi in the late afternoon. The way I feel after getting nine or ten hours of sleep, which happens maybe once a month, if that. The time I spend with my cats, Anya and Yanna, as I’m waking up from a nap.
Your proudest virtues?: Diligence, doggedness when it comes to writing. A general willingness to admit fault in many (though not all) instances. Excellent taste in clothing, particularly footwear, socks, jackets and T-shirts.
Your idea of perfect happiness?: There’s no “perfect” anything. Everything ebbs and flows. Impermanence is the only thing you can count on. It follows that the only perfect happiness one can hope to embrace is to constantly wander the globe with a flush guaranteed income and the freedom to visit here and there and then move on when the mood strikes. With the option of returning to favorite locales from time to time.
Source of your greatest irritation among mixed company?: Loud, vulgar people of all shapes and manners. People who throw their heads back and shriek with laughter in bars and cafes. People who lean their seats back too far in coach.
Which living persons do you most admire?: Presently speaking I admire hundreds of people. My list would change on a daily basis, starting today with Patti Smith. I admire adventurous and quick-witted people the most. I generally admire smart, considerate people who’ve been around the block and accomplished things under pressure, especially if they have a good sense of humor.
What dead persons would you most like to meet and hang with?: Stanley Kubrick, Cary Grant, Jesus of Nazareth, John Lennon, Honore de Balzac, Carole Lombard, Julius Caesar, Jim Morrison, Abraham Lincoln, Jimi Hendrix, Howard Hawks.
Your greatest regret? Allowing my anger at my father to determine the course of my life for too many years. Not getting my life into gear sooner. Not being a better father with my younger son, Dylan. Stupidly and fearfully beating the shell of a turtle with a piece of wood when I was five or six years old (I thought it was a snapping turtle that might bite my finger off).
If you were forced to choose exile to a single country with a reasonable guaranteed income…? Italy.Your favorite qualities in a woman: Passion, brains, courage, blonde hair, beauty, laughter, a love of adventure, a willingness to argue openly and fairly (i.e., no silent sulking).
What do you tend to lie about?: As little as possible. Every time you lie you absorb a small amount of poison into your system. I would say “lie to no one, ever” but we all do it from time to time, mostly in order to spare hurt feelings.
Your greatest fear?: Falling, drowning, being eaten — any kind of violent death. Being imprisoned in a small cell.
The trait you most deplore in yourself? Hair-trigger temper when I’m irritated or pressured. Occasional cowardice.
Your favorite movie hero?: Richard Basehart‘s wire-walking fool in La Strada.
Your favorite journey, one already taken or dreamt about?: My first visit to Europe in ’76.
What words or phrases do you most overuse?: I try not to over=use anything, but I’ve probably said “don’t tell me” too often.
What is your general motto?: Rewrite. Tomorrow is another day. Never say die.