A Baxian questionnaire

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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

Self-deprecation.

The quality that I desire in a man

Intelligence.

The quality that I desire in a woman

A sense of humour.

What I appreciate most about my friends

Honesty.

My favorite occupation

Reading. Embarking on ridiculous hikes or walks to get to a good scenic view.  I also love reading up on obscure things and becoming an expert on them (which involves watching far too many Theroux documentaries).

My dream of happiness

A long, serene life, framed by travelling and laughter, surrounded by friends and family.

What would be my greatest misfortune?

To lose one of my senses.

What I should like to be

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(me being happy at a wine evening in Christ Church, Oxford, November 2014)

In any job, any place, so long as I am happy, healthy and enriched by those surrounding me.

The country where I should like to live

I hate this question, I’m grilled about this so often. I don’t know!

My favourite colour

I don’t really have one anymore. This may have been bought on by an obsession with black that lasted a decade.

The flower that I like

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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 sweat, blood 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, Margaret Mazzantini, Khaled Hosseini, Goliarda Sapienza, Robert Lowell, Giorgio Bassani, 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, Elena Ferrante, Cornelia Funke, Alice Munro.

My favorite poets

W.H.Auden (my top pick) , Alda Merini, Anne Sexton, T.S.Eliot, Sappho, Ovid, William Butler Yeats, Adrienne Rich, Eugenio Montale, Giovanni Pascoli, Ingeborg Bachmann, Paul Celan, e.e.cummings, Ted Hughes.

My heroes in fiction

Robbie Turner in Atonement ! And I 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), Lila in Ferrante’s Neapolitan NovelsI 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?). And Chagall!

My heroes in real life

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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 let me move abroad, gave me independence and freedom, bought me up bilingual with many a flashcard tantrum involved. My wonderful auntie Iva, who toughened me up, taught me logic, diplomacy, common sense, not to be impulsive when it can work against me, and a love for all things fennel. Dr Paul, my phenomenal tutor at university, who took my mind and shaped it, made me believe I am capable of anything and talented, made me love literature even more than I did already, and threw me back into the world after Oxford so much more confident and excited about what stretches out ahead of me.

Your heroines in world history

The incredible Temple Grandin stands out for me.

Your favorite food and drink

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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, asparagus, cold watermelon, salty black olives, every berry ever.. so many. Drink wise – a boring choice, I know – freezing cold still water. I stopped drinking alcohol last year.

Your favorite names

Italian: Edoardo, Matilde, Sofia, Stefano, Giacomo, Clementina, Vittoria/o, Margherita

English: David, Henry, Grace,  Ella, Charlotte, Sebastian, Matthew

Italian girls’ names over English, English boys’ names over Italian.

What I hate the most

Entitlement.

 

The gift of nature that I would like to have

I used to be desperate to somehow sprout an aptitude for maths overnight, 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

“I can’t believe I’ve finished university”.

Faults for which I have the most indulgence

Being loud, and bad jokes.

My motto

I love this Edna St Vincent Millay quote, her poem “First Fig” –

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(I think this means don’t be apologetic for the life you are leading if it is making you happy)

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