According to Wikipedia, there are two surviving sets of answers to the confession album questions by Proust: the first, from 1885 or 1886, is to an English confessions album, and his answers are in French. The second, from 1891 or 1892, is from a French album, Les confidences de salon (“Drawing room confessions”), which contains translations of the original questions, lacking some that were in the English version and adding others. Being both immensely narcissistic and bored, I combined the two after reading celebrities’ answer on Vanity Fair for years, to give my own.
The principal aspect of my personality
The quality that I desire in a man
The quality that I desire in a woman
A sense of humour.
What I appreciate most about my friends
Patience. Loyalty. Honesty.
My favorite occupation
I generally love reading up on obscure things and becoming an expert on them, which involves watching far too many Theroux documentaries. So far I’ve become an expert on Ultra Zionist communities in the West Bank, a whole array of cold crimes, child pageants in the US, the heroin epidemic of the 70s in Berlin, tiger behaviour… I could go on. I like to pick random ones to watch. I also love reading, climbing up high buildings to get to see great views, and creative writing.
My dream of happiness
I’m really quite happy right now – although a bit stressed out.
What would be my greatest misfortune?
To lose my family or one of my senses.
What I should like to be
(me being happy at a wine evening in Christ Church, Oxford, November 2014)
I’m content where I am. And next year I’ll be happy where I am too. Generally in life- life starting approximately some time around October 2017 – I’d like to start out living in London in a house that isn’t a cupboard, with an interesting and rewarding job/further degree (I don’t know yet), and with the chance to see friends not too rarely, and being able to spend one day a week exploring the city. The dream is being a full-time adult.
The country where I should like to live
I hate this question, I’m grilled about this so often. Because ideally, I would live in Italy (except horrible polluted Milan) – but I don’t want to do that at this point in time (as a soon to be recent graduate in the humanities). I don’t dislike the UK – London can be even at its most chaotic enthralling, and Bath, and Edinburgh too, are extremely pretty. The jobs are there, not in Italy, and it’s there I can build a career, which is ultimately the reason I want to stay in the UK long term. If there were a way to land my dream job and get posted to Italy, there’d be no happier bunny than me.
There’s advantages and disadvantages to either country. I’m very glad I went to school in Italy for some things, even despising the mnemonic parrots it makes of teenagers, as it gives you a wider insight into different subjects (even if you can’t pick them) – but it’s a country sinking into itself and I can’t stay behind and pray it’ll change. The UK is rotten with classism and to be honest it’s not exactly an uplifting place to be at the best of times (what with Brexit). It’s never going to be perfect wherever you go.
My favourite colour
I don’t really have one anymore.
The flower that I like
Tulips from Andrea, January 2015
Sunflowers have always been my favourites, but I have grown to love flowers given to me on special occasions. Tulips remind me of my 20th birthday. Carnations, because they’re what we wear to our exams in Oxford and they remind me of blood, sweat and tears (of joy!). If there’s a positive memory linked to it, I’ll like it.
My favorite bird
Owls. Not tiny little fluffy ones, big, stern looking owls.
My favorite prose authors
Lydia Davis, Ian McEwan, Roald Dahl, Cesare Pavese, Grazia Deledda, Margaret Mazzantini, Khaled Hosseini, Ernest Hemingway, Edmondo De Amicis, Giorgio Bassani, Bernhard Schlink, Herta Müller, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf (up until recently I wasn’t sure what the hype was about, then I read The Waves…), Milan Kundera, Thomas Mann, Cornelia Funke, Alice Munro.
My favorite poets
W.H.Auden (my top pick) , Alda Merini, Anne Sexton, T.S.Eliot, Sappho, Catullus, Ovid, William Butler Yeats, Eugenio Montale, Giovanni Pascoli, Herman Hesse, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, e.e.cummings, Ted Hughes.
My heroes in fiction
Robbie Turner in Atonement ! And loved Pip in Great Expectations
My favorite heroines in fiction
So many. Anna in Volevo i pantaloni (Good girls don’t wear trousers), Miss Honey in Matilda (and Matilda herself), Penelope in the Odyssey, somewhat controversially Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar, Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, George Kirrin from The Famous Five (I read my mother’s old collection of those, and I loved Enid Blyton’s choice to include such a strong, stubborn little girl). I despised some of the most beloved ones: I hated Anne of Green Gables.
My favorite composers
Verdi, Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, Offenbach (Les contes d’Hoffmann is incredible – especially Barcarolle ) and Puccini.
My favorite painters
Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Cartier-Bresson (does he count as a photographer?)
My heroes in real life
Papa and I in Rome, sometime in 1997
My dad to whom I owe most of the things I owe my mum, plus excellent music taste and a love for all the fine things in life – spoiled rotten musically, culinarily, and linguistically.
My heroines in real life
My mumma who has done everything to shape me into a well-rounded, ambitious, determined person, who has let me move abroad and given me independence and freedom, who has bought me up bilingual and done an excellent job of it – despite all the arguing. And my auntie Iva.
Your heroines in world history
Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Rosa Parks, Benazir Bhutto, Temple Grandin, Helen Keller.. so many other names could be mentioned here – women who have fought so hard to change laws discriminating them in their countries, women fighting racism, women standing out in fields dominated by men, women scientists, disabled women who have been outstanding in their campaigning to raise awareness of their own issues…
Your favorite food and drink
Eating a yogurt and pistachio ice cream with Roberto in Florence, August 2015
I can’t pick one!! Roasted artichokes, shrimp risotto, stuffed aubergine, pistachio ice cream, almonds, plump summer figs, mango, asparagus.. so many. Drink wise I am actually really satisfied with a cold glass of still water. I had the best water from a fountain in Olympia in Greece a few years ago. I stopped drinking alcohol last year.
Your favorite names
Italian: Edoardo, Matilde, Sofia, Stefano, Giacomo, Clementina, Vittoria/o
English: David, Henry, Grace, Charlotte, Sebastian
What I hate the most
Historical figures that I despise the most
Have always really disliked Napoleon Bonaparte.
The military event that I admire most
Hannibal’s invasion of Italy maybe? Not sure about liking warfare actions but some are really quite brilliantly planned (not in recent history… am I right, Tony Blair?)
The gift of nature that I would like to have
I used to be desperate to somehow sprout an aptitude for maths, but actually I don’t really mind about that anymore. I do wish I could sing higher notes – I’m a contralto, and have quite a deep voice, so I’ve never known how it feels to hit a cracker of a note because I can’t manage it!
How I want to die
Proust got this one right – in his words “improved and loved”
My present state of mind
FINALS ! oh god oh god oh god FINALS !!!!!!!!
Faults for which I have the most indulgence
Being loud. Being my own last priority. I’ve improved at both, though.
I love this Edna St Vincent Millay quote, her poem “First Fig” –
Basically, don’t be apologetic for the life you are leading if it is making you happy