Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Priscila Uppal

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The Proust Questionnaire, with Priscila Uppal

Priscila Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer and York University professor. Her poetry collections include the newly released Winter Sport (Mansfield Press) and Traumatology (Exile Editions), as well as Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, U.K.) and the 2006 Griffin Poetry Prize finalist Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions). She is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (Doubleday) and To Whom It May Concern (Doubleday) and the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy (McGill-Queens). Her work has been published internationally and translated into numerous languages. She is on the Board of Directors at the Toronto Arts Council and was poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic games. Time Out London recently dubbed her “Canada’s coolest poet.” Visit her website at

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Priscila tells us her greatest accomplishment, her dream of being a tuxedo cat, her idea of misery 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.


What is your dream of happiness?
A life without illness, surrounded by loved ones, good wine, and countless opportunities to give one’s imagination shape.

What is your idea of misery?
Working a job you can’t stand. Living in suburbia. Driving a car. Having children.

Where would you like to live?
I love where I live. In fact, I still get a little jolt when I walk up my driveway to my blue door. Ideally, I would also like to live a few weeks per year in New York, London, Paris, Barbados, and elsewhere, but I would always like to come back home to my blue door and my cats.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Intelligence, decency, humour, inventiveness, tenderness, bravery.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Intelligence, decency, humour, inventiveness, tenderness, bravery

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principal fault?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Champagne cocktails and fresh flowers and vintage hats.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Inability to handle the disappointments of life.

What do you value most about your friends?
Humour and support for my passions and projects.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Lack of empathy. Narcissism.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Inability to stop grieving.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?

What would you like to be?
A tuxedo cat.

What is your favourite colour?

What is your favourite flower?
Red, yellow, white, or pink roses.

What is your favourite bird?
Love birds and cockatoos.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Aristotle. Aphra Behn.

What character in history do you most dislike>
Adolf Hitler

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Euripides, Miguel de Cervantes, Laurence Sterne, Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens, Balzac, Graham Greene, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabakov, Margaret Atwood, Christa Wolf, George F. Walker.

Who are your favourite poets?
Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Ovid, Homer, Czeslaw Milosz, Yehuda Amichai, Gwendolyn MacEwen, H.D., Sir Philip Sidney, John Donne, Anna Swir, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Adrienne Rich, Christian Bök, Christopher Doda.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Don Quixote, King Lear, Pip, Miss Havisham, Uncle Toby, Tom Jones, the Cat in The Master and Margarita, Satan, Judas, Aurora Leigh, Orlando, Lolita, Frau Anna G., Medea, Hardev Dange.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My friend athlete and activist Ann Peel. David Suzuki. Ghandi. Freud. Simone de Beauvoir, John Kilduff (the simultaneous man). My father.

Who is your favourite painter?
Joan Miró. Leonor Fini.

Who is your favourite musician?
Bono. Axl Rose.

What is your favourite food?
Pizza: extra cheese, extra sauce, pepperoni, mushroom, sausage, and green olives.

What is your favourite drink?
Kir Royale.

What are your favourite names?
Aerial, Miranda, Cassandra, Joshua, Lars, Sergei…

What is it you most dislike?

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
To be able to perform a 3 ½ inward somersault dive from a ten metre tower.

How do you want to die?
I want to die a very old, wise woman, curling up with Don Quixote.

What is your current state of mind?
Blue, like Bajan water.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Living well and making a difference in others’ lives.

What is your motto?
Adversity causes some to break, others to break records.


For more information about Traumatology please visit the Exile Editions website.

For Winter Sport: Poems go to the Mansfield Press website.

Buy thess books 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.

Related item from our archives

JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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