The Proust Questionnaire — Book Edition

Thomas Girst Answers The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

By Thomas Girst December 4, 2013
Thomas Girst: Head of Cultural Engagement: BMW Group (Munich, Germany)
View Thomas Girst’s Book List

This November marked 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. To honor the occasion, we developed the Designers & Books version of the eponymous Proust Questionnaire, which we’ve sent out to various contributors and friends. 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.


View the complete questions asked in The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition

Here are the answers Thomas Girst sent in response to the Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition:

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

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

4. Your favorite book title (because you like the sound of it):
A draw between Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Wahlverwandschaften (Elective Affinities, 1809), Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff’s Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Life of a Good-for-Nothing, 1826), and Robert Coover’s Spanking the Maid (1982).

5. A book you could never finish:
I have to admit that it is Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973). I have tried again and again and certainly will not give up.

6. A book you will never start:
Anything by John Grisham, Ken Follett, et al. Just no interest whatsoever in thrillers, etc.

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:
The Arden Shakespeare: Complete Works.

8. A book you should have read but haven’t:
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869). There is a beautiful two-volume new translation right on my desk waiting for me to spend some time with.

9. The best “book as object” you own (how it looks over what it says):
I just acquired at auction the deluxe edition of the book by Nobel laureate Octavio Paz on Marcel Duchamp, The Castle of Purity (1966). Signed by both, it contains 16 serigraphs on transparent acetate. When put together in the right way, shadows of Duchamp’s readymades appear.

10. Your reading speed: very slow, slow, moderate, fast, very fast: 
Newspapers: fast. Books: moderate at best.

11. While you read, are you a note-taker? If yes, where do you record your notes:
I scratch lines with my fingernails at the margins and dog-ear the page. When done with the book, I then transcribe the sentences and paragraphs most dear to me for my personal files.

12. Your most idiosyncratic reading habit:
I always read until I fall asleep—every night. Enough time to put away the book and switch off the light, though.

16. Your favorite writer of the gender opposite yours:
Emily Dickinson. 

17. The last book you bought:
Three small volumes with little texts in German and French to improve your language skills.

19. The book you are currently reading:
I’m the middle of rereading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I just started with volume 3, The Guermantes Way. While reading Proust, you live with him.

20. The book you will read next:
Volume 4 of In Search of Lost Time: Sodom and Gomorrah. Maybe Haruki Murakami’s South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992) in between.

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

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

View all Questionnaires.

Also see “Celebrating a Proust Anniversary with The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition.”

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