The Proust Questionnaire — Book Edition

Celebrating a Proust Anniversary with The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

Designers & Books poses its own version of the famous questionnaire to contributors and friends

By Steve Kroeter October 31, 2013

This November marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Marcel Proust’s opus, In Search of Lost Time (A la recherche du temps perdu), originally known in English as Remembrance of Things Past. In honor of the occasion, we’ve come up with the Designers & Books version of the eponymous Proust Questionnaire.

Marcel Proust (1871–1922), c. 1900

View The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

In Search of Lost Time’s first volume, Swann’s Way (Du côté de chez Swann), so celebrated now, didn’t have an easy time getting into print—it was rejected three times by publishers before Proust decided to pay the Paris publisher Bernard Grasset to bring out the novel in 1913. It would take 17 years for the remaining 12 volumes to be published.

In the years since it has been in print, In Search of Lost Time has seen numerous editions in French as well as translations into English. The most recent English translation is a centennial edition of Swann’s Way planned for release by Yale University Press this November.

Rare book dealer Honey & Wax in Brooklyn, New York, which currently offers a first edition of the first volume of In Search of Lost Time, inscribed by Proust to fellow writer Marcel Prevost, describes the multi-volume work as “evoking an entire sensual world of experience through the play of his narrator’s memory.” The work’s many devotees include Designers & Books contributors Penny Drue Baird, Peter Eisenman, Thomas Girst, Maira Kalman, Michael Manfredi, Deborah Sussman, and André Leon Talley.

The Books

Swann’s Way Marcel Proust
William C. Carter

Joining the array of readings, exhibitions, and seminars that have been held to mark the 100th publication anniversary, Designers & Books decided that it would continue in the spirit of Proust by developing an adaptation of the series of questions known as The Proust Questionnaire.

While the questionnaire—a popular 19th-century French parlor game meant to reveal a respondent’s personality—is now associated with his name, Proust was not the originator of it. That distinction appears to belong Antoinette Faure, daughter of Félix Faure, president of France from 1895 to 1899. During her Paris tea salons, as an entertainment she would ask her guests to answer an identical series of questions, and have them record their answers, in longhand, in a special journal she kept for that specific purpose. Proust recorded his answers twice: once when he was in his early teens, and again when he was about 20. Vanity Fair publishes a similar questionnaire with answers from various celebrities and has even launched an interactive version.

Over the past several weeks we have sent out to various contributors and friends our version of The Proust Questionnaire. Rather than including the questions from the original that asked about a wide array of “thoughts and feelings,” our adaptation focuses solely on the respondent’s relationship to books. It includes 25 questions. We suggested to each person that they answer at least 10, and more if they wanted to. We will be publishing the answers daily during November, beginning on Monday, November 4, and hope you’ll enjoy reading them.

We are pleased that we will be publishing Stanley Abercrombie, Marian Bantjes,  Coralie Bickford-Smith, Michael Bierut, Nicholas BlechmanTony Brook, Ivan Chermayeff, Seymour Chwast, Peter Eisenman, Monica Förster, Tom Geismar, Thomas Girst, Sagi HavivSteven Heller, Angus Hyland, Mark LamsterAlexandra LangeJulie Lasky, Debbie Millman, Todd OldhamHarry Pearce, Rick Poynor, Alice Rawsthorn, Michael RockTina Roth Eisenberg, Inga Sempé, Adrian Shaughnessy, Rudy VanderLans, and Julius Wiedemann. Don’t miss a questionnaire.

Here are the questions asked in “The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition”:

1. Of these, your reading preference: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama:

2. Your favorite childhood book (or favorite childhood author):

3. Your favorite book character:

4. Your favorite book title (because you like the sound of it):

5. A book you could never finish:

6. A book you will never start:

7. If for some reason it turned out that you could save one and only one book from among those you own, which would it be:

8. A book you should have read but haven’t:

9. The best “book as object” you own (how it looks over what it says):

10. Your reading speed: very slow, slow, moderate, fast, very fast:

11. While you read, are you a note-taker? If yes, where do you record your notes:

12. Your most idiosyncratic reading habit:

13. The most expensive book you’ve ever bought (and, if you can remember, the price):

14. If you could be any author:

15. If you are what you read, the book that best says who you are:

16. Your favorite writer of the gender opposite yours:

17. The last book you bought:

18. Your favorite place to purchase books:

19. The book you are currently reading:

20. The book you will read next:

21. The current location of the book you will read next:

22. Your favorite format for books: paper or pixels:

23. If you could have written any book:

24. A book that was particularly meaningful to, or highly recommended by, an acquaintance of yours:

25. If you have the chance to plan it, the last book you’ll read:


Complete first edition of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, at Honey & Wax Booksellers


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