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:
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:
28. My present state of mind:
29. Faults that inspire the most indulgence in me:
30. My motto: