November 16, 2009

The Proust Questionnaire

I saw this on another blog, Apricot Tea, and found it quite interesting.Then I started doing a little poking around on the interweb, to see exactly what the Proust Questionnaire was. Apparently, it was not written by Marcel Proust himself, but he answered the questionnaire several times in his life, and seems to have given the most memorable answers. A similar version is often featured in Vanity Fair, answered by celebrities.Supposedly, answering such a list of questions reveals the tastes, aspirations, and true nature of the taker. I thought I would give it a go and see what it reveals about me (although I'm not sure who's grading this).

The Proust Questionnaire

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Feeling completely satisfied with all aspects of my life (with no overhanging causes for anxiety), and spending special moments with the people I love, cooking delicious food, listening to beautiful music, and engaged in pleasant (and thought-provoking) conversation.
2. What is your greatest fear?
My greatest irrational fear is waking up in a Rosemary's Baby type world, where everyone I know is involved in some great conspiracy against me. I don't have very many "rational" fears (whatever that means), aside from giant spiders or being lost in the middle of the ocean.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 
My ability to logically rationalize almost anything, which often leads me to do or accept things I shouldn't, but want to,or wouldn't have if I had approached it from another angle.
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?  
Cruelty towards others. And when people are dishonest. Not necessarily in what they say, but rather in how they represent themselves.
5. Which living person do you most admire?  
As a rule I try to avoid superlatives, so I'll pick two, someone I know personally and someone I don't. My little brother Lucas, for his intelligence, kindness, generosity, and his astounding depth of knowledge across a wide and varied range of subjects (the night before last he helped me fix my computer over the phone, while most likely planning his photography book, designing a building, and pondering some quantum physics, just for the hell of it!); and Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist, for his compassion, his world view, and his undeterrable efforts to make the world a better place by exposing humanity's worst injustices.
What is your greatest extravagance?

Cooking and eating well (if extravagance means what I spend the most money on).
7. What is your current state of mind?
At peace and optimistic.
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Chastity and modesty. Whereas patience and kindness are the most important.
9. On what occasion do you lie?
To spare somebody's feelings.  
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? 
My weight. But I can't really complain, because I hardly make an active effort to keep it in line (see n. 6).
11. Which living person do you most despise?
I'll spare you that new-age crap about not wanting to waste my energy by hating, and how I would rather focusing on loving. I spend a lot of time hating things and people. Luckily I can't say I truly despise anyone who has an active part in my life, but I do have a burning hatred towards anyone who consciously, and without any qualms, spends his or her life making other people miserable, for personal gain or ideology (i.e. dictators, religious fundamentalists, corporate exploiters, and other despicable people in the same vein, with too much power and not enough humanity).  
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
A sense of humor (especially with regards to himself), and the ability to act and feel honestly, without worrying about what other people think.
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
A sense of humor (especially with regards to herself), and the ability to make do without anyone else's help (something women aren't taught enough).
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Delicious" and "Che Balls!" (an italo-american hybrid I thought up)
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Again with the superlative! I'm going to go with three here, my wonderful family, Valerio (with whom, after a year and half, I'm still completely smitten), and books. 
16. When and where were you happiest?
Probably during my childhood, when playing was a full-time job, I had no real responsibilities, and life was pretty damn good. But I can't say that I'm particularly unhappy right now: being able to start realizing my plans for my future - what I'll be doing, where I'll be doing it, and with whom - is incredibly exciting.
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be a great novelist. (And become invisible at will).
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would love to have more discipline, in all aspects of my life. 
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having had the choice to do with my live exactly what I wanted, and then actually having done it. 
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I don't think I've lived enough of my life to know what I would probably come back as, according to karma, but if I had a choice, I'd like to be reincarnated as a dolphin - a brilliant animal known to play and socialize in an almost human-like way, without having any of the dull responsibilities of human life, and the only other animal, aside from humans, that has sex for pleasure! Fancy that!
21. Where would you most like to live?
In a vibrant, culturally rich, warm and friendly cosmopolitan city (Rome isn't too shabby), with a summer villa in the Tuscan countryside (with a vineyard and a lemon grove).
22. What is your most treasured possession?
Probably my little computer, because of all of the priceless parts of my life that are on it (things I've written, photos I've taken), otherwise I'd be pretty bummed without all my books, shoes, and earrings. 
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Feeling completely unwanted, unloved and unappreciated. Luckily, I've never been there.
24. What is your favorite occupation?
Reading a great book (especially a crack book), in a warm bed, under a blanket, with a steamy cup of tea, and not having a care in the world.
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
I'm not sure, since I've never perceived myself externally, but I'd like it if it were my sense of humor. Physically, since I was a little girl people have have commented about my smile (which I hope is a good thing).
26. What do you most value in your friends? 
 Good conversation, which spares no topic, emotion or depth. If you can't really talk to your friends, who can you talk to?
Who are your favorite writers?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Munro, Paul Auster, Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoevsky (gotta love those Russians).
28. Who are your hero and your heroine of fiction?
My hero in fiction would have to be the Count of Monte Cristo - aside from being a pillar of moral fortitude and a shrewd vendettista (probably not a word), he was a total badass and I image him as smolderingly sexy. My heroine in fiction would have to be Ursula Iguaran, from One Hundred Years of Solitude - she is wise, timeless, almost infallible, and the ultimate matriarch.
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I'm not sure I really "identify" with any historical figure, since his/her life experience would be a little anachronistic to mine, but I have a profound respect and admiration for Queen Elizabeth I, considering everything she was able to achieve as a woman during her time.
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
I'm not one to have that many specific "role models" but I admire and look up to anyone who, with limited means, or working from the bottom up, manages to make a significant positive impact on the world. For example, Paris Hilton making a socially obligatory donation to charity doesn't count, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation counts a little more because they started with a lot less, but the people who really count are those like the man who started the micro-credit bank in India and revolutionized the lives of thousands of poor women by giving them buying power and a chance at a decent life.
31. What are your favorite names?
For girls, I like Eva, Olivia, and Sofia, and for boys I like Benjamin, Oliver, and Xavier.
32. What is it that you most dislike?
When people are rude, arrogant, ignorant, or unfairly prejudicial.
33. What is your greatest regret?
Luckily I don't live with many regrets, but if I had to choose one, I would say that I wish I had applied myself more at University. But hopefully I'll have a chance to remedy that with grad school next year.
How would you like to die?

Old, and surrounded by people who love me, and whom I love.
35. What is your motto?
"Live, and let live."


Kate said...

i am offended that, as your life partner, i wasn't on the list of people you most love. ;)

Laura said...

I love it! It's a questionnaire, but with history and purpose. I may or may not be stealing it for an upcoming blog post... Thanks! :D

Amy said...

That's a great questionaire. It's very meaningful. Not like alot of the other ones you see with questions like, "what's your favorite color". Hehe. I might have to do this one sometime. I love it. And I love you and your blog!

Julia said...

thanks! I can't really take credit for it, as I found it on someone else's blog, but I did "borrow" it because I liked that the questions were different.

kate - you will always have an eternal place in the corner of my heart reserved for Canadian Life Partners (I just couldn't mention you cause Valerio might get jealous! :) family and books aren't REAL competition!)

De Lly Dilettante said...

Yes, a very meaningful questionnaire indeed. Thanks for sharing. Che :D

Cheryl said...

First of all, that's awesome that you answered all 30 questions. I would have gotten to 10 and given up.

Second, che balls is hilarious

Third, "live and let live" is an awesome motto to live by

Julia said...

"Che balls" arose out of necessity. The common italian expression is "che palle" which literally means, "what balls," but figuratively means "this sucks" or "what a pain in the ass". Since I work almost exclusively with children, and I had to find a more acceptable alternative to what even 3-year-olds recognize as a bad word to accidentally let slip out while I was on the phone. "Che balls" expresses exactly what I'm trying to say, but the kids just think I'm talking about soccer balls or balloons. Yup, I'm pretty clever!