Long before Celebrity Interviews and decades before Twitter blurbs and Polls; likes and dislikes, teenage author, Marcel Proust, answered a series of questions asked by the Daughter of the Future Prime Minister – Felix Faure, while playing a parlor game.
The responses and question seemed normal at the time, but has since taken a life of its own.
Posthumously coined the Proust Questionaire, it has become a way for great luminaries to ponder life’s greatest notions – love; hope, happiness and even the essence of life itself. These questions are simple, yet revealing; and although on first grasp might look quotidian, a little introspection would reveal layers upon layers of sensibilities.
The Proust Questionaire remains a timeless reminder of the caprices, appeal, and innermost self of the creative spirit, and a tunnel through which masters and literary greats continue to whisper to us through the ages. Centuries later, the questions remain a direct, yet subtle probe of consciousness and complexities, usually part revealing and part funny.
When asked what his current state of mind was, David Bowie replied – ”pregnant,” and when Proust was asked where he would like to live, his reply was: “in the realm of the ideal, or rather, my ideal.”
Not known to allow themselves be penetrated, writers and creatives generally, are known for elaborate masks, built with beautiful wordplay and grand illusions, but we are at least given a fraction of the simple, yet profound intricacies of a brilliant mind and the strangeness that allows a person gaze into the unknown to create further unknowns.
This is how to question the creative at heart, and dreamers by rote.
Abiodun Awodele – Writer at dusk, masquerade at dawn.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I’d have to say that will be being successful at the things I set out to do, the things that matter to me, and success for my friends at the things that matter to them. I want success for me and my crew.
2. What is your greatest fear?
I fear failure. I break out in cold sweat when I think about not making the grade anywhere or in whatever form, and that pushes me to strive harder to avoid failure.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I think I’m too trusting of people. Many times I’ve been taken advantage of because I invested too much trust in the person. I like to be sincere with people, so when they don’t reciprocate it saddens me. I wish I trusted people less.
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
I’m caught somewhere between dishonesty and time wasting. People who lie make me mad, just like people who have no sense of time and cannot be punctual to save their own lives.
5. Which living person do you most admire?
I’m not too big on hero worship, but I’ll pick my dad if push comes to shove. The man has taught me some lessons on people management that I’ll never forget in a hurry.
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
There was a time I spent an insane amount of money on installing a satellite receiver system. I mean, it wasn’t like I even had time to watch so much television in the first place, but I had it installed anyway, just to please myself, money that could have been spent on something more useful.
7. What is your current state of mind?
Very hopeful and optimistic. I’m looking forward to doing things I feel I should have done earlier, and hoping they’d give me satisfaction I dream of in doing them.
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Chastity. I won’t expand on this.
9. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I like me, no, I love me, a lot. It’s not like I have a choice or I can look any different is it? Why dislike what you can’t change? An episode of Botched will tell you it’s better to stay the way you were made. Just love yourself.
10. What is the quality you most like in a man?
The ability to keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. Too many men these days just want to run their mouths and poke their nose. Don’t be one of those men.
11. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
The ability to keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. Too many women these days just want to run their mouths and poke their nose. Don’t be one of those women.
12. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Mine would have to be LOL. Depending on my mood, it can be a conversation starter, filler or ender.
13. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
If I told you, I’d have to kill you
14. Which talent would you most like to have?
Super powers are more my thing, but if you insist then I’ll say it would be making money off other peoples’ talents
15. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Maybe I’d love to be more forceful with people, and less trusting in certain circumstances.
16. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
For now, releasing my first book would have to be it. The doubt and uncertainty was immense, but I finally rose above all that and just did it.
17. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Person of course. Imagine coming back as tissue paper. Ewww!
18. Where would you most like to live?
In quiet village (preferably on a farm) somewhere in Europe. Light would be constant and there wouldn’t be any ‘Fulani Herdsmen’ to disturb the peace. I love quietude.
19. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being in a situation you don’t want, and not being able to do anything about it.
20. What is your most marked characteristic?
My carefree attitude. I’m easygoing, I think. I’m not too demanding, and I find joy in little things.
21. What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty. Has to be loyalty. I want my friend to be my friend in every sense of the word. Is that too much to ask?
22. Who are your favorite writers?
John Jakes, Ted Dekker and Stephen King.
23. Who is your hero of fiction?
I don’t have any.
24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
25. Who are your heroes in real life?
Parents, all of them.
26. What is your greatest regret?
That I didn’t pursue my writing dream earlier. Maybe by now I would have ‘blown’. Who knows? I’m grateful for the talent and all that, but sometimes I wish I’d listened to the voices in my head much earlier.
27. How would you like to die?
Peacefully, with two Angels on hand to take me to the mansion in the sky
28. What is your motto?
Life is an ‘I’ experience. It might sound a tad selfish, but do stuff for you. At the end of the day the consequences of your actions are yours anyway, so why worry about other people?
Abiodun Awodele is a writer, and his books, “Always and Forever.” and “As In A Day” areout on Okadabooks and Amazon.