arcana imperii :: the book of j


the proust questionnaire 01

while i have absolutely no tolerance for chain letters, especially those promising plagues and other sundry horrors if one dare disobey and break the chain and mostly on the grounds of it all being ridiculous superstition (baloney detection kit, anyone?), i would pay attention to anything interesting that would, for instance, further understanding and knowledge among and about people in one's life. i received a questionnaire this morning, asking some interesting questions and others so inconsequential, uninformative and ridiculous i can't imagine replying other than with this post and a new questionnaire.. what is my favourite number? do i sleep on the right or left side of the bed? spare me, mates!

so let's have a look at something truly interesting. many readers are certainly familiar with the proust questionnaire found among the back pages of vanity fair each month. the magazine poses a series of questions to famous subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experience aiming to reveal interesting bits about the respondent.

in proust's time it was considered great amusement, even to very young people, to fill out questionnaires quizzing them about their favourite virtues, painters and characters of fiction and history as party game social events such as birthday celebrations. (hard or nearly impossible to imagine posing any such question to an contemporary american thirteen-year-old. these people think the "canadian river" separates the US and mexico, don't know what language is spoken south of the border and can't even find washington, dc or the usa in a world map).

so, a young marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was thirteen, another when he was twenty-years-old. again, proust did not invent this party game, but has remained one of the people to provide most extraordinary answers, especially considering his age . at the birthday party of antoinette felix-faure, the thirteen-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 theatre

  • to what faults do you feel most indulgent?

  •             to a life deprived of the works of genius

  • who are your favourite 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 favourite characters in history?

  •             a mixture of socrates, pericles, mohammed, pliny the younger and augustin thierry

  • who are your favourite heroines in real life?

  •             a woman of genius leading an ordinary life

  • who are your favourite heroines of fiction?

  •             those who are more than women without ceasing to be womanly; everything that is tender, poetic, pure and in every way

  • your favourite painter?

  •             meissonier

  • your favourite 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 favourite virtue?

  •             all virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues

  • your favourite 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

    via chick.