The so-called Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.
Marcel Proust, author of In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past)
Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire. I think it will add insight if you take a pen and NOTEBOOK (not just a sheet of paper) and start writing your answers, like in a journal.
- What is your idea of perfect happiness?
- What is your greatest fear?
- What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
- What is the trait you most deplore in others?
- Which living person do you most admire?
- What is your greatest extravagance?
- What is your current state of mind?
- What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
- On what occasion do you lie?
- What do you most dislike about your appearance?
- Which living person do you most despise?
- What is the quality you most like in a man?
- What is the quality you most like in a woman?
- Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
- What or who is the greatest love of your life?
- When and where were you happiest?
- Which talent would you most like to have?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
- If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
- Where would you most like to live?
- What is your most treasured possession?
- What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
- What is your favorite occupation?
- What is your most marked characteristic?
- What do you most value in your friends?
- Who are your favorite writers?
- Who is your hero of fiction?
- Which historical figure do you most identify with?
- Who are your heroes in real life?
- What are your favorite names?
- What is it that you most dislike?
- What is your greatest regret?
- How would you like to die?
- What is your motto?
I think it would work better if you resigned yourself to up to a whole page on each question. I mean: don’t cheat. Work hard on the answers. Keep writing!
The How Would You Like To Die? question alone has power to enlighten your life!
Notice, on question 9, he doesn’t ask you, Do you tell lies? He says, straight out: WHEN do you lie?
Finally, do you have a motto? I have several and they serve me well. For example: You can open any door, if only you can find the right key!
Another one is: Life can change in an instant. All it takes is a decision.
The whole parlor game idea started in 1886, when Antoinette Faure, the daughter of the future French President Félix Faure, asked her childhood friend Marcel Proust to fill out a questionnaire in a book titled “Confessions. An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, & c.” A fashionable parlor game originating among the Victorian literate classes, the “confession album,” as it was known, presented a formulaic set of queries on each page—“What is your distinguishing characteristic,” for instance, or “What virtue do you most esteem?” The album’s owner would pass the volume around among her friends, collecting their comments as a kind of souvenir, not unlike the notes that high-school students leave in one another’s yearbooks.
Marcel Proust was only 14 years of age when he answered for Antoinette. The young Proust wrote his answers in French, though Faure’s album, a British import, was printed in English. In his early twenties, Proust would fill out a second questionnaire, in a French album titled “Les Confidences de Salon.”
Proust was far from the only significant cultural figure to participate in this ritual. In 1865, Karl Marx confessed that he considered his chief characteristic “singleness of purpose,” and that his favorite occupation was “bookworming.” Five years later, Oscar Wilde wrote in an album called “Mental Photographs, an Album for Confessions of Tastes, Habits, and Convictions” that his distinguishing feature was “inordinate self-esteem.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Cézanne all filled out similar forms. But while these other confessions are curios of their era, remembered only by historians, Proust’s questionnaires have had a far-reaching influence that their young author could scarcely have foreseen, becoming, over time, the template for one of the most widely administered personality quizzes in history.
Numerous stars and celebrities have risen to the challenge. Here is wit George Carlin’s answers, presented as an image:
Here are David Bowie’s answers:
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Reading.
What is your most marked characteristic? Getting a word in edgewise.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Discovering morning.
What is your greatest fear? Converting kilometers to miles.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Santa Claus.
Which living person do you most admire? Elvis.
Who are your heroes in real life? The consumer.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? While in New York, tolerance. Outside of New York, intolerance.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Talent.
What is your favorite journey? The road of artistic excess.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Sympathy and originality.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? Chthonic, miasma.
What is your greatest regret? That I never wore bell-bottoms.
What is your current state of mind? Pregnant.
If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? My fear of them (wife and son excluded).
What is your most treasured possession? A photograph held together by cellophane tape of Little Richard that I bought in 1958, and a pressed and dried chrysanthemum picked on my honeymoon in Kyoto.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Living in fear.
Where would you like to live? Northeast Bali or south Java.
What is your favorite occupation? Squishing paint about a senseless canvas.
What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to return books.
What is the quality you most like in a woman? The ability to burp on command.
What are your favorite names? Sears & Roebuck.
What is your motto? “What” is my motto.
Really, the witty responses of celebrities should be of no concern, compared to your own answers, honestly, from deep inside.
Pay a visit to the countryside of YOU, admiring the local landscape!
Next week, we’ll look deeply into the subject of mind and being. Be prepared for some terrible shocks. There are people around, often professionals, who want to take that away from you. As if you have no right to your own mind…
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