The Proust Questionnaire is a game that originated among the literate classes of the nineteenth century, containing questions that supposedly revealed one’s true nature. While many famous artists and writers participated, it was the popularity of a young Marcel Proust’s answers that ultimately named the game. Here, Amy Sackville takes over.
When were you happiest?
I hope I can never answer this question. I like to have something to look forward to.
What is your principal defect?
What makes you depressed?
Hormones. Lack of sunlight. My own lassitude.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
The way it looks.
What is your favourite word?
What is your most unappealing habit?
Chewing the skin on the inside of my mouth.
What is your favourite smell?
Smelling flowers at dusk, unexpectedly – honeysuckle, wallflowers, anything sweet. Also the smell of a new season in the air. Also fresh truffle. Also books.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Is it really a pleasure if you feel bad about it?
Who are your favourite writers?
Woolf, Nabokov, Joyce, William Maxwell, Marilynne Robinson, Penelope Fitzgerald, John Banville, Eliots T.S. and George, Ali Smith, Samuel Beckett, occasionally E.M. Forster, lately Elizabeth Taylor . . . I could go on. I may be some time.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
Life modelling for an evening class in a university room with no heating, in which all the students were bundled up in coats and scarves while I lay there trying not to shiver or spasm and slowly turning blue. I also once made a really bad job of cutting my own fringe.
When did you last cry, and why?
Chances are that any answer I give will be out of date by the time this is posted . . . falling off my bike, probably, or otherwise walking into something, falling over, stabbing myself while pitting an avocado perhaps (yes, really. I have a scar on my palm).
What do you most value in your friends?
Humour, sincerity, warmth, intelligence, willingness to drink with me.
What gift would you most like to possess?
I’d like to be musical. I’d like a cello and the ability to play it beautifully, please. I have noticed that many of the Portobello authors have asked for something similar – perhaps all art really does aspire to the condition of music. We must make do with words.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
I suspect I wasn’t embarrassed at the time, whatever it was. Thank god I wasn’t sober.
What is your most treasured possession?
I’m not sure I have one. The most precious things are those that I couldn’t say I possess.
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
‘You’re pretty, but you’re stupid, and you know it.’ It’s really the shame of my reaction that stays with me; I rose to it and started protesting my ugliness/brilliance.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I’d probably add more semicolons; that’s my usual editorial approach.
What is your greatest fear?
Death, of course, in all its shapes and forms.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
What is your greatest fear?
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Photograph © Peter Schiazza