Proust Questionnaire


The Proust Questionnaire takes its name from a list of answers given by the French writer Marcel Proust to a questionnaire in a ‘confession album’. Apparently these kinds of questionnaires were popular in English families in the late 19th Century as people’s answers were thought to reveal things about their personality, tastes, and aspirations.

I am familiar with this questionnaire as it appears on the back page of Vanity Fair magazine each month completed by various famous people. Sometimes the respondents don’t answer the questions seriously – they try to be witty, or don’t want to give too much away, or a mixture of the two, but they are always interesting (I read VF religiously).

So, when I read a recent Proust questionnaire in VF I started thinking about what my own answers to these questions would be… I don’t know how much they really say about my personality, but it was interesting to think about. Some of the questions on VF differed slightly from the original questions Proust answered (well, according to the list on Wikipedia) so I merged some of them and ignored others – being selective about which aspects of my personality I want to give away on here ūüėČ Anyway, here are my answers:

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Travelling.
  2. What is your greatest fear? Dying alone.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Procrastination.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Arrogance.
  5. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Chastity.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Wine (amount, not quality sadly).
  7. On what occasion do you lie? When I have procrastinated and not completed something I said I would do.
  8. What do you dislike most about your appearance? My puffy eyelids, though they remind me of my mum.
  9. When and where were you happiest? On a couple of first/second dates.
  10. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? My ability to procrastinate and waste time.
  11. If you could change one thing about your family what would it be?¬†That they weren’t so far away.
  12. What do you consider your best achievement? My PhD thesis.
  13. If you died and came back as a person or thing what do you think it would be? A sloth.
  14. What is your most treasured possession? My travel diaries and photographs.
  15. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?¬†Alzheimer’s disease.
  16. What is it that you most dislike? Douchebags.
  17. What living person do you most despise? Despise seems an overly harsh word. I would not say I despise anyone.
  18. How would you like to die?¬†Quickly. Perhaps in an exciting way like a plane crash (not being frivolous, just would prefer that to a long slow decline like Alzheimer’s).
  19. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?¬†Yo (apparently I can’t get away with it with my British accent).
  20. What is your motto?¬†Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
  21. What are your favourite qualities in a man? Openness, honesty, feminism, intelligence, height.
  22. What are your favourite qualities in a woman? Openness, honesty, empathy, intelligence.
  23. What is your most marked characteristic?¬†Well, it used to be sarcasm but I think I’ve learnt to tame that over the last few years.
  24. What is your greatest regret? Messing up a job interview.
  25. What or who is the greatest love of your life?¬†I haven’t met him yet.
  26. Where would you like to live? Closer to my family, but with better weather than they have in the UK.
  27. What is your favourite occupation? Designing new experiments.
  28. Who is your favourite writer? Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan.
  29. Who is your favourite hero of fiction? Leonard Hofstadter.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? Aung San Suu Kyi, Christopher Hitchens.
  31. What is your favourite food?¬†Stagg “dynamite hot” chilli; cheese.
  32. What natural talent would you like to have? Any musical ability, or to be able to speak Spanish fluently.
  33. What is your present state of mind? Enthusiastic.

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