Christopher Hitchens Proust Questionnaire Questions & Answers
In Hitch 22, Christopher Hitchens answers the famous Proust questionnaire, a series of questions that Vanity Fair (Hitchens’s employer) would level at every personality they profiled.
They are simple questions that, should they be taken seriously, will reveal your true nature.
So then… what was Christopher Hitchens true nature?
And what did the Proust questionnaire reveal about my own true nature?
Christopher Hitchens Proust Questionnaire
Where would you live?
In a state of conflict or a conflicted state.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
To be vindicated in my own lifetime.
To what faults do you feel most indulgent?
To the ones that arise from urgent material needs.
Who are your favourite heroes of fiction?
Dennis Barlow, Humbert Humbert, Horatio Hornblower, Jeeves, Nicholas Salmanovitch Rubashov, Funes the Memorious, Lucifer.
Who are your favourite characters in history?
Socrates, Spinoza, Thomas Paine, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky.
Who are your favourite heroines in real life?
The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.
Who are your favourite heroines of fiction?
Maggie Tulliver, Dorothea, Becky Sharp, Candy, O, Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia.
Your favourite painter?
Goya, Otto Dix.
Your favourite musician?
J. S. Bach, Bob Dylan.
The quality you most admire in a man?
Courage moral and physical: “anima”—the ability to think like a woman. Also a sense of the absurd.
The quality you most admire in a woman?
Courage moral and physical: “anima”—the ability to visualize the mind and need of a man. Also a sense of the absurd.
Your favourite virtue?
An appreciation for irony.
Your least favourite virtue, or nominee for the most overrated one?
Faith. Closely followed—in view of the overall shortage of time—by patience.
Your proudest achievement?
Since I can’t claim the children as solely “mine,” being the dedicatee of books by Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, and poems by James Fenton and Robert Conquest.
Your favourite occupation?
Travel in contested territory. Hard-working writing and reading when safely home, in the knowledge that an amusing friend is later coming to dinner.
Who would you have liked to be?
Prometheus, Oscar Wilde, Emile Zola.
Your most marked characteristic?
What do you most value in your friends?
Their continued existence.
What is your principle defect?
Becoming bored too easily.
What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?
Loss of memory.
What would you like to be?
One who understood music and chess and mathematics, or one who had had the courage to bear arms.
What is your favourite colour?
Blue. Sometimes red.
What is your favourite flower?
What is your favourite bird?
What word or expression do you most overuse?
Re-reading a collection of my stuff, I was rather startled to find that it was “perhaps.”
Who are your favourite poets?
Philip Larkin, Robert Conquest, W. H. Auden, James Fenton, W. B. Yeats, Chidiock Tichbourne, G. K. Chesterton, Wendy Cope.
What are your favourite names?
Alexander, Sophia, Antonia, Celeste, Liam, Hannah, Elizabeth, Wolfgang.
What is it you most dislike?
Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.
Which historical figures do you most despise?
Stanley Baldwin, the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Which contemporary figures do you most despise?
Henry Kissinger, Osama bin Laden, Josef Ratzinger.
Which events in military history do you most admire?
Thermopylae, Lepanto, the defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, the mutinies in the German Army in 1918 and the German General Staff in 1944, the Royal Navy’s Arctic convoys.
Which natural gift would you most like to possess?
The ability to master other languages (which would have hugely enhanced the scope of these answers).
How would you like to die?
Fully conscious, and either fighting or reciting (or fooling around).
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
The way in which it makes former admirers search for neutral words. (Salman Rushdie responded to this with… it’s infrequency).
What is your motto?
“Allons travailler! ” (This more imperative version of “Get on with it!” is annexed from Emile Zola, though E. M. Forster somewhat overextended it by enjoining us to “get on with your own work, and behave as if you were immortal.”)
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