The Proust Questionnaire: Your Year In Review

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Marcel Proust, presumably watching the ball drop in Times Square.
Marcel Proust, presumably watching the ball drop in Times Square.

A couple weeks ago, I felt like doing a year-end questionnaire. It seemed like a practical way to assess the close of 2013 and I have a thing for questionnaires; I get to tick little boxes or fill in blanks regarding my preferences and this is endlessly fascinating to me.

I knew my online search for a quality questionnaire would yield plenty of corporate team-building versions and “life-coach” exercises, and I was right. But I figured there had to be at least one questionnaire out there comprising twenty-odd intelligent, non-saccharine questions to asses one’s year. I was incorrect.

And so I went for the classics. Marcel Proust’s questionnaire is something you may have come across if you’ve ever read Vanity Fair magazine. The back page of the magazine offers readers the answers to Proust’s edited questionnaire given by (often annoying) famous people. But Vanity Fair annexed the questionnaire; it was the world’s long before it was Conde Nast’s. Here now is the questionnaire. It’s not a “year-end” anything, just a very good list of questions for a human being. I encourage you to fill it out for yourself. If you have no favorite heroine, if you can’t come up with your favorite poet, perhaps 2014 is the year to find these people for yourself. We all need heroines, we all need a favorite poet or two.

Happy New Year to all; may 2013 be a fond memory, even so.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
2. What is your greatest fear?
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
5. Which living person do you most admire?
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
7. What is your current state of mind?
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. On what occasion do you lie?
10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
11. Which living person do you most despise?
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
16. When and where were you happiest?
17. Which talent would you most like to have?
18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
21. Where would you most like to live?
22. What is your most treasured possession?
23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
24. What is your favorite occupation?
25. What is your most marked characteristic?
26. What do you most value in your friends?
27. Who are your favorite writers?
28. Who is your hero of fiction?
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
30. Who are your heroes in real life?
31. What are your favorite names?
32. What is it that you most dislike?
33. What is your greatest regret?
34. How would you like to die?
35. What is your motto?

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