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Questions Marcel Proust Would Like to Ask You


I was given a great gift about a month ago. Our friend, Jeannette, asked me to lead a half-day Marcel Proust in Paris tour, as part of a larger tour she was leading.

I was thrilled by her invitation, but had two responses: while I'd read A La Recherche du Temps Perdu and a number of books about him, no way could I do justice to Proust in less than a full day, and furthermore, could I do justice to Proust? With hope and nervousness, I spent the next few weeks reading a terrific Proust biography by George Painter, investigating where I might take the members of this tour, and mapping out an itinerary with Richard.

There were a few surprises in the planning stages, such as at the manuscript museum. We’d heard there were letters of Proust there, but learned that the exhibition had been dismantled and the materials had migrated elsewhere. Not a single example of Proust in his own hand. But at the museum we found a card with a “Questionnaire de Marcel Proust.” It was a list of questions that he first answered in an English-language confessions album at the age of 13, and again at age 20. The original manuscript of Proust's enthusiastic answers was discovered in 1924, and auctioned off on May 27, 2003 for 102,000 euros.

Who knows what might eventually happen with your responses!



I won’t try to capture the tour in words. It was a transformative experience. If you’d like to enjoy it yourself, ask me to take you on a Proust tour when you’re in Paris (but give me some notice, please).

What we’d like to do is to ask you to play a Proustian game. Answer these questions in the following format (imaginary example):

1.  Vision. 2. Depth. 3. Grace. 4. Awareness. 5. Lateness. 6. Writing. 7. Etc.

Send them to us by Thursday, May 3 using this e-mail link, and we’ll print your answers in a Saturday, May 5 post. This is for the playful and adventurous among you. (You may skip five answers, but not more.)

Marcel Proust Questionnaire



1. The main feature of my character:

2. The quality that I desire in a man:

3. The quality that I desire in a woman:


Street art by Da Cruz

4. What I appreciate most about my friends:

5. My main fault:

6. My preferred occupation:

7. My dream of happiness:

8. What would be my greatest misfortune:


9. What I would like to be:

10. The country in which I would like to live:

11. The color I prefer:

12. The flower I like:



13. The bird which I prefer:

14. My favorite authors in prose:



15. My favorite poets:

16. My favorite heroes in fiction:

17. My favorite composers:

18. My favorite painters:



19. My heroes in real life:

20. My heroines in history:

21. My favorite names:

22. What I hate most of all:



23. Characters that I most despise:

24. The military act that I value most:

25. The reform that I admire most:

26. The gift of nature that I would like to have:

27. How I would like to die:


Street art by Tristan des Limbes

28. My present state of mind:

29. Faults that inspire the most indulgence in me:


Street art by Fred le Chevalier

30. My motto:


Without you, nothing will happen...so join in on the Proustian fun



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Reader Comments (4)

Dear, Dear friends,

Do know that I would love to participate, but circumstances prevent me from such an indulgence. Your Proustian questions intrigue me, and maybe I can get to them down the road. In a collection of essays by Lewis Thomas, called "Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Fifth Symphony," a title so intriguing that I dare anyone NOT to buy it, he talks about when he was asked by a magazine editor to list his seven wonders of the world. He could not do so at the time, but after awhile he wrote this essay <http://hermiene.net/essays-trans/seven_wonders.html> to finally address the question. Perhaps someday I can do the same on your behalf.


Monday, April 30, 2012 at 15:57 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Balcomb

If I didn't do this immediately without thinking much it wouldn't happen at all. Or it would be completely different one hour from now. I wonder how much time Proust took to do his.


Monday, April 30, 2012 at 18:20 | Unregistered CommenterVarya Simpson

Dear Stuart,

Any time you care to answer the questions is soon enough for us.

This article by Lewis Thomas is fascinating, particularly because his wonders come from a scientist's perspective, and so are all surprising to me. Now we think we'll muse on what we see as the Seven Wonders of the World. A new friend asked me the other evening what I thought were the Wonders of Paris, and it took me a few days to answer.

Thanks for stimulating another kind of wondering.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 19:36 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell & Richard Beban

Dear Varya,

Quickly! Answer them now without thinking! We're eager to read your answers. Proust jumped in to most challenges with enthusiasm, so he probably filled out the questionnaire without too much second guessing.


Kaaren (& Richard)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 19:39 | Unregistered CommenterKaaren Kitchell

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