IMG_2594One of my favorite French authors is Marcel Proust. There is something about la Belle Époque (1871-1914) that’s so romantic, even though clearly life for even a well-to-do woman back then would have been horribly restricted. No yearning for that! Just look at Collette’s heroines and Coco Chanel’s chafing against social strictures.P1060666But there’s the gorgeous wedding-cake architecture, the fantastic Art Nouveau designs (like the ads of Mucha and the Paris Métro entrances of Guimard), the heyday of writers in Paris. The impressionists–Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Manet, Degas…. And the music–Erik Satie, Gabriel Fauré (this one makes me cry; I sang it once at a singalong in NYC. Nerdy thrills), Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel.IMG_0349 2Proust captures the Belle Époque beautifully in his seven-volume chef d’oeuvre, “À la recherche du temps perdu”–“In Search of Lost Time” (previously known as “Remembrances of Things Past”). Even if you’ve never read Proust, you probably know about dipping a madeleine into a cup of tea, which brings back memories, and all these recollections make up the novel. I admit to a weakness for parenthetical phrases, but Proust turns every sentence into a matryoshka doll of phrases within phrases, filling nearly an entire page. I would skim back to see: What was the subject again? And the verb? It was the very best bedtime reading, whisking me away to another time and space, and the sentences so intensely complex that my brain would explode and I would sleep. It took me three years to read the whole thing, a bit over 2,000 pages. In English. I cannot even imagine tracking those sentences in the original French.IMG_1605The Proust Questionnaire wasn’t written by the man himself, but he was such a big fan of this parlor game/personality test, which he first did as a teen, that his name became associated with it. Vanity Fair magazine posed the questionnaire to a series of celebrities. The wonderful newsletter BrainPickings featured David Bowie’s answers to VF. There’s a short version of the questionnaire by Bernard Pivot, the host of a TV show, “Bouillon de Culture,” an intellectual/literary prime-time talk show that ran for 20 years. So French.IMG_1604Many years ago, some friends and I held a salon. We all worked together, but our spouses didn’t. To keep our twice-a-month dinner parties from turning into work gripe sessions that would bore half (if not all) the table silly, we would pick a topic and a leader. We’d all read up on the (usually controversial) topic, and the leader would moderate the discussion and yank us back if it veered into boring tangents about work. It wasn’t as pretentious as it might sound. Just fun for a bunch of nerds.P1090124The Proust Questionnaire, even small bits of it, could serve as a similar device, a way to move past chatter and into deeper exploration of what matters. Research isn’t necessary, but introspection is. Here it is. Feel free, in the comments, to answer some of the questions.

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?P1060662 2And if you want to wallow in Belle Époque beauty just before it’s crushed by war, check out the 1999 movie, “Le Temps Retrouvé” (Time Regained), in which Marcello Mazzarella plays the narrator/Proust; Catherine Deneuve plays the main character, Odette; Emmanuelle Béart plays Odette’s daughter, Gilberte (and OMG they look SO MUCH like mother and daughter! The eyes! The eyebrows!); Deneuve’s real daughter, Chiara Mastroianni, plays the narrator’s crush, Albertine; and John Malkovich plays the eccentric Baron de Charlus, aka “Mémé” (Granny!!!!).IMG_2596

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25 thoughts on “So Many Questions

  1. . What is your idea of perfect happiness? – Good health and peace of mind and contentment in life for myself and my family

    2. What is your greatest fear? I won’t even list it

    3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? procrastination

    4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? hatred

    5. Which living person do you most admire? Anyone who lifts others, shows kindness, has the courage to speak for those who can’t.

    6. What is your greatest extravagance? My animals –

    7. What is your current state of mind? Worried for our country

    8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Hmm.. that’s tough – I suppose blind devotion gets many in trouble, so devotion is my answer.

    9. On what occasion do you lie? to save another’s feelings.

    10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? I’ve come to appreciate it all despite scars, wrinkles, extra pounds.

    11. Which living person do you most despise? Trump for the excelerant he has thrown on the fabric of our country.

    12. What is the quality you most like in a man? Love for his family.

    13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Can you believe I don’t actually have an answer for this? And I’m not sure why.

    14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? F*ck.

    15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My children

    16. When and where were you happiest? I’m happier now within my life than I’ve ever been. Age has been a friend.

    17. Which talent would you most like to have? To have my hearing restored so that my musical talents could be restored as well.

    18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Patience.

    19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? My children

    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? Wherever my family resides. Truth!

    22. What is your most treasured possession? Item? a ring that contains a pearl my son found in a clam he harvested in the harbor in front of our little seaside cottage

    23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? The debilitating depression that leads some people to commit suicide when the rest of their life appears ideal.

    24. What is your favorite occupation? Mother

    25. What is your most marked characteristic? I hope it’s kindness, but I know it’s also that I am bold with my opinions.

    26. What do you most value in your friends? Honesty

    27. Who are your favorite writers? too many to list –

    28. Who is your hero of fiction? Jon Snow, Game of Thrones

    29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Jane Goodall – I know she’s not a historical figure, but perhaps she should be someday.

    30. Who are your heroes in real life? Anyone standing up for the underdog. Anyone waging a battle against their limitiations, living their best life. Anyone who risks their life to save others. There is quite a list of heros out there – the real everyday heros that are the strong threads in the fabric of a community.

    31. What are your favorite names? Arya, Michael…

    32. What is it that you most dislike? Deceit, hate, racism, greed

    33. What is your greatest regret? Thankfully I don’t have many

    34. How would you like to die? Peacefully in my sleep in my 90’s still living independently and enjoying my family.

    35. What is your motto? It’s not what you’re looking at… it’s what you see.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. #34 We (Bob and I) once had this conversation with my mother-in-law in her advanced age and infirmity. Regrettably, she did not get her wish. My answer was, Working in the garden like the Don in the Godfather.

    As for impressionists it would be Monet. When first introduced to him in an installation of his works, at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, I wept. The beauty, for me, was just overwhelming. Music of that time? Claude Debussy. I often listen to his work when I can’t sleep. I never get hear the end.

    I suspect that I would have loved one of your dinner parties.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, so happy to run onto this post. I am currently reading à la reserche. Started in in November and have 2,333 pages to read (there are over 8,000 pages on my eReader). Everyone keeps asking me “why??!??”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m impressed that you read Proust — even in English! Sounds like perfect bedtime reading…🤓 I LOVE the Proust questionnaire but it occurs to me I’ve only ever read it in English. Must check out French VF!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know that I always, always say this but I LOVE coming to read your posts on Friday! I actually save all that you write so that I can relax and take my time reading and enjoying the post. It may take me a few days but I am going to answer all of these questions. I am a huge fan of Proust and in fact have a watch with a quote from Remembrance of Things Past in the center, from one of my trips to Pairs.

    I hope that you have a wonderful Easter and hopefully a little rest, relaxation and fun this weekend.

    Have a great day my friend, and as always thank you for coming to visit and post on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How lovely to encounter Proust on your blog, when I was scrolling through looking at French street style posts! I wrote my PhD thesis on Proust (plus Flaubert). But as you can imagine, several years spent dissecting a novel tends to spoil the pleasure of reading it. Perhaps the time has come this next long dark Scottish winter to plunge back in and have that world unfold around me again. “Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure…”
    Really loving your street style posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I like showing regular people–there are so many who make me think, “she looks great,” even though she might not have a perfect figure…because who does?

      Like

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