Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Adebe D.A.

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August 26, 2010 - Adebe DeRango-Adem, who also goes by Adebe D.A., is a writer whose words travel between Toronto and New York City. She recently completed her MA at York University, where she also served as Assistant Editor for the arts and literary journal, Existere. Her work has been published in various North American sources, and she won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. Her debut poetry collection, ex nihilo, was published this year by Frontenac House, one of ten manuscripts chosen in honour of Frontenac House's Dektet 2010 competition, using a blind selection process by a jury of leading Canadian writers: bill bissett, George Elliott Clarke and Alice Major. ex nihilo is currently on the longlist for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the world’s largest prize for writers under 30.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Adebe tells us her chief characteristic, her favourite flower, her motto and more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness?
Being a full-time writer with a full-time audience who can approach and be inspired by my work in its attempt to reach new levels of harmony and understanding.

What is your idea of misery?
Forgetting, or being made to relinquish, the beauty of flight.

Where would you like to live?
I see myself eventually settling (but never truly settling) in a sunlit, jazzy apartment near Central Park with the love of my life and little short stories for children (as well as “real” children, as it were).

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
An inquisitiveness about the world combined with a grounded sense of the spirit in things; a sense of freedom that necessitates a turning inwards, rather than gaping socialite bravado.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
In addition to the qualities I’d attribute to a man, a woman who is savvy and can use her infinite variety in ways that mystify, as well as inspire to action.

What is your chief characteristic?
Daring to know.

What is your principal fault?
Being critical — which is perhaps a good thing, if only because it allows one to triumph against all their other faults.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying more books than I can possibly read in my lifetime.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
The fear of getting to know oneself deeply. So many of us feel prompted towards “massification,” the need to join the mass and just blend. It is only natural, the need to be accepted; but I’d rather find myself from the outskirts, and be on the edge of things. A necessary and common fault that I’m tolerant of, if only because, somewhat conversely, the mass is as much a reality as it is an illusion.

What do you value most about your friends?
I value the most those friends who listen as much as they respond.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Anti-intellectualism.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
The need to locate something I dislike about myself.

What is your favourite virtue?
Feeling and showing gratitude for everything.

What is your favourite occupation?
Writing, at all costs.

What would you like to be?
A writer, at all costs.

What is your favourite colour?
I love anything cerulean or purple.

What is your favourite flower?
Roses; they are timeless, never meek and always beautiful.

What is your favourite bird?
Owls. An obsession since childhood.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
By virtue of becoming historical, one becomes worthy of admiration.

What character in history do you most dislike?
All characters who profited from human suffering.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac, Roland Barthes, Zadie Smith.

Who are your favourite poets?
Amongst multitudes, Khalil Gibran, Rainer Maria Rilke, Langston Hughes and Hettie Jones.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
The Little Prince.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Frantz Fanon and Simone de Beauvoir.

Who is your favourite painter?
J. M. W. Turner and Leonardo da Vinci are my absolute favourites, if I had to choose.

Who is your favourite musician?
Tori Amos.

What is your favourite food?
Sushi. I could eat it 24/7.

What is your favourite drink?
Champagne, because it is a celebration.

What are your favourite names?
Dante and Beatrice.

What is it you most dislike?
Having to think or act upon an either/or.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Being a polymath without trial.

How do you want to die?
Having already gotten over death, and brilliantly happy.

What is your current state of mind?
Wordsworthian and Woolfian, and wondering if I’ve given too much or too little away in this questionnaire.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Having my debut poetry collection, ex nihilo, published by Frontenac House and subsequently longlisted for the Dylan Thomas prize.

What is your motto?
"Ubi Dubium, Ubi Libertus" ("Where There is Doubt, There is Liberty").

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For more information about ex nihilo please visit the Frontenac House website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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