Proust Questionnaire

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The Proust Questionnaire is a set of questions answered by the French writer Marcel Proust, and often used by modern interviewers.[1]

Proust answered the questionnaire in a confession album—a form of parlor game popular among Victorians.[2] The album belonged to his friend Antoinette, daughter of future French President Félix Faure, titled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc."

The album was found in 1924 by Faure's son, and published in the French literary journal Les Cahiers du Mois. It was auctioned on May 27, 2003 for the sum of €102,000 ($113,609.46USD).[3]

Other historical figures who have answered confession albums are Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Cézanne, Martin Boucher and Enzo Kehl.[4]

The French book talk show host Bernard Pivot used a similar questionnaire at the end of every episode of his show Apostrophes. Inspired by Bernard Pivot, James Lipton, the host of the TV program Inside the Actors Studio, used a similar questionnaire. Lipton had often incorrectly characterized the questionnaire itself as an invention of Pivot.

A similar questionnaire is regularly seen on the back page of Vanity Fair magazine, answered by various celebrities. In October 2009, Vanity Fair launched an interactive version of the questionnaire, that compares individual answers to those of various luminaries.[5]

Another version of the questionnaire, as answered by various Canadian authors, is a regular feature on the radio program The Next Chapter.

The questionnaire[edit]

There are two surviving sets of answers to the confession album questions by Proust: the first, from 1885 or 1886, is to an English confessions album, although his answers are in French. The second, from 1891 or 1892, is from a French album, Les confidences de salon ("Drawing room confessions"), which contains translations of the original questions, lacking some that were in the English version and adding others.

Confessions questions Confidences questions Proust's answers 1890 Proust's answers 1886
Your favourite virtue The principal aspect of my personality The need to be loved; more precisely, the need to be caressed and spoiled much more than the need to be admired. All virtues that are not limited to a sect: the universal virtues.
Your favourite qualities in a man The quality that I desire in a man Feminine charm.[6] Intelligence, moral sense.
Your favourite qualities in a woman The quality that I desire in a woman Manly virtues, and the union of friendship. Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence.
Your chief characteristic ---- ---- [left blank]
What you appreciate the most in your friends What I appreciate most about my friends To have tenderness for me, if their personage is exquisite enough to render quite high the price of their tenderness.
Your main fault My main fault Not knowing, not being able to "want".
Your favourite occupation My favourite occupation Loving. Reading, daydreaming, writing verse, history, theater.
Your idea of happiness My dream of happiness I am afraid it be not great enough, I dare not speak it, I am afraid of destroying it by speaking it. To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater.
Your idea of misery What would be my greatest misfortune? Not to have known my mother or my grandmother. To be separated from Mama.
If not yourself, who would you be? What I should like to be Myself, as the people whom I admire would like me to be. Since the question does arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.
Where would you like to live? The country where I should like to live A country where certain things that I should like would come true as though by magic, and where tenderness would always be reciprocated. In the country of the ideal, or, rather, my ideal.
Your favourite colour and flower My favourite colour The beauty is not in the colors, but in their harmony. I like them all and, for the flowers, I do not know.
---- The flower that I like Hers/His - and after, all of them.[7]
---- My favourite bird The swallow.
Your favourite prose authors My favourite prose authors Currently, Anatole France and Pierre Loti. George Sand, Aug. Thierry.
Your favourite poets My favourite poets Baudelaire and Alfred de Vigny. Musset.
Your favourite heroes in fiction My heroes in fiction Hamlet. Those of romance and poetry, those who are the expression of an ideal rather than an imitation of the real.
Your favourite heroines in fiction My favourite heroines in fiction Bérénice. A woman of genius leading an ordinary life.
Your favourite painters and composers My favourite composers Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann. Meissonier, Mozart, Gounod.


  1. ^ Carter, William C., and Henry-Jean Servat. 2005. The Proust questionnaire. New York: Assouline.
  2. ^ Evan, Kindley. "How the Proust Questionnaire Went from Literary Curio to Prestige Personality Quiz". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  3. ^ "NaN EUR to USD - Euros to US Dollars Exchange Rate".
  4. ^ Evan, Kindley. "How the Proust Questionnaire Went from Literary Curio to Prestige Personality Quiz". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  5. ^ Carter, Graydon, and Robert Risko. 2009. Vanity Fair's Proust questionnaire: 101 luminaries ponder love, death, happiness, and the meaning of life. [Emmaus, Pa.]: Rodale.
  6. ^ Grunspan, Cyril (2005). Marcel Proust: tout dire. Portaparole. p. 33. ISBN 9788889421048.
  7. ^ In French the gender of the possessive is determined, not by the gender of the possessor, but the gender of the possessed object - in this case flower, 'fleur', is feminine, but the context gives no assurance of how to read 'la sienne' meaning 'his/hers'.

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