The Proust Questionnaire: With Anna Halprin

Editor’s Note: The Proust Questionnaire was a popular form of interview around the turn of the twentieth century used to reveal the tastes, personality and aspirations of the interviewee. It acquired its name and popularity from the responses it elicited from the French writer Marcel Proust. To delve into the mind and heart of this 88-year-old artist, we asked Anna the Proust Questionnaire.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
When I do not have anything I must do.

What is your greatest fear?
Snakes. When I was 10 years old and sick in bed after an operation, the neighborhood kids put a snake in my bed. I ran screaming into the bathroom, vomited, locked the door, and wouldn’t come out for two days.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Taking time off to walk with a friend on the beach at Sea Ranch.

What is your favorite journey?
Going home.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
War.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Losing my temper.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Bigotry and prejudice.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband and all our kids.

Which living person do you most admire?
For the moment, Barack Obama.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Being nice.

On what occasion do you lie?
I don’t …

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
Everything—I’m like an old rose, losing my petals.

Which living person do you most despise?
I don’t despise anyone, but people like Bush and Cheney make me sick.

What is the quality you like most in a man?
His feminine side and his knack for fixing things.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Her masculine side and her ability to fix things.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
That they’d all be healthy.

What do you most value in your friends?
Good humor.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A bird—I could fly away and cross all boundaries.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To sing.

In what country would you like to live?
Right where I am.

Who are your favorite composers?
The sounds of nature: the ocean at night when it’s quiet, the wind rustling leaves, rain and hail, birds, crickets, etc.

Who are your favorite writers?
Amos Oz from Israel and Martin Buber. Locals like Herbert Gold, Annie Lamonte, Isabel Allende, and Mike McClure. Some of the ancients like King David’s psalms.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Those who have sacrificed for the good of others or have lived through concentration camps or torture or been on Nixon’s black list and didn’t squeal.

What are your favorite names?
Daria, Rana, Hannah (my real name). Eliezra, Levanna, Ruthanna, Micah, Jahan (all in the family).

Which words or phrases do you most over use?
“I don’t know.”

What is your most treasured possession?
My mother’s diamond ring that was stolen. Good health.

What is your greatest regret?
Not my greatest regret—got so many—but I do regret not listening to more stories from my mother and father about their life in the old country and their immigrant stories.

How would you like to die?
I wouldn’t like it—I’m having too much fun—but if I must, then I’d like to die praying.

What is your current state of mind?
Scattered.

What is your motto?
Come on let’s go.

What is your greatest achievement?
Being married to the same man for 68 and a half years (a tie with giving birth to two daughters).

PUBLISHED May 1, 2009

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