The Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire named after the one famously responded to by Marcel Proust (he actually took the questionnaire twice (once in 1885-86, when he was only a teenager, and again in 1891-92, with a different set of answers). Modern (twentieth-century evocations have included those by French tv host, Bernard Pivot, and, more recently, American tv presenter, James Lipton, and, as a high-point in the register of popular culture, for many years now, as a regular feature in the magazine, Vanity Fair.
It’s from the latter (the March 1994 issue) that the following has been taken. This text also appeared in Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire – 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness and the Meaning of Life (2009)
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
AG: Excellent health. no flu, no leprosy.
What is your most marked characteristic?
AG: Incriminating eloquence.
What is your greatest extravagance?
AG: Poetry office with fax, Xerox and poetry archive
What is your favorite occupation?
AG: Writing poems in a bedside notebook.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
AG: Insanity, drug-induced or natural.
What is your greatest regret?
AG: I didn’t accept a friend’s invitation to get in bed naked in 1944
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
AG: Continuous cowardice
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
AG: Renew my body, set at 17.
Which living person do you most despise?
On what occasion do you lie?
AG: To protect friends from my public life in poetry. Candor for oneself doesn’t require snitching on others
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
AG: Virginity and/or cynicism and/or machismo
What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?
AG: Co-dependency with madman or – woman
What is the quality you most like in a man?
AG: Intelligent beauty.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
AG: Sympathetic self-reliability.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Who are your heroes in real life?
What is your favorite journey?
AG: To Benares, the “oldest continually inhabited city in the world”
Where would you like to live?
AG: Sometimes Paris, sometimes London, sometimes Benares, sometimes San Francisco, sometimes New York.
AG: In Buddhist community peacefully, aged 100, in presence of a helpful lama
What is your motto?
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?
AG: The Eiffel Tower
What is it that you most dislike?
AG: Theopolitical nationalist “family values” TV hypocrites and their corresponding heads of state
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?