Proust questionnaire sells for $120,000
A questionnaire filled in by celebrated gay French author Marcel Proust at the age of only 14 sold at a Paris auction on Tuesday for 102,000 Euros ($120,000), more than three times its presale estimate. French fashion house Gerard Darel won a fierce telephone bidding war for the so-called Proust Questionnaire, dated 1886, auctioneers said. "This is above our most optimistic expectations," auctioneer Pierre-Yves Lefevre told reporters. The document had initially been valued at 25,000-30,000 euros.
Proust's replies gave a foretaste of key themes from In Search of Lost Time, his seven-volume semiautobiographical novel in which he expounded in sensuous detail on topics including art, politics, history, and love. The list of 24 questions, ranging from favorite authors, composers, and colors to "your idea of happiness," was printed in souvenir albums from Victorian England that became popular among the bourgeois youth of late-19th-century France. Contrary to popular belief, Proust did not invent the questionnaire, but his precocious and literate replies to it, published posthumously in 1924, were considered so extraordinary that it has been associated with him ever since. "The questionnaire which Marcel Proust filled in at age 14 is so revealing of his future literary works, with his anxieties, his passions, his sorrows. Everything is already contained in this document," said Lefevre.
A brainy, slightly fey young boy, Proust gave his favorite occupations as reading, dreaming, writing verse, history, and theater. The depth of misery was "to be separated from Mama"--he had an almost neurotic attachment to his mother. Proust's replies appear in a little red album with the title "Confessions. An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, &c." It belonged to his friend Antoinette Faure, whose father, Felix Faure, later became French president. Modified versions of the questionnaire remain popular today. One appears on the back page of monthly magazine Vanity Fair.
A spokeswoman for privately owned Darel said it was not yet known what the fashion house would do with its prize buy. Also included in the sale at the Drouot auction house was Proust's last-known manuscript, which sold for 38,000 Euros, just above its presale estimate.