The adapted version of The Proust Questionnaire

As a fan of Marcel Proust who loves the way he perceives the world as depicted in À la recherche du temps perdu, I thought I should write down my answers to the most popular version of his iconic questionnaire in my first unequivocally personal blog post, even though my answers may very well change tomorrow:

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Time travel. Interplanetary travel. As for a slightly more down-to-earth answer, visiting the most beautiful, inspiring- ethereal or eerie- places, absorbing every moment spent there and feeling connected to the place, living in the present, and having a cultivated soul.

What is your greatest fear?
Death. Non-existence. Annihilation. Oblivion. Aging. Bugs.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Literary figures: Virginia Woolf & Sylvia Plath.

Which living person do you most admire?
Tilda Swinton. Richard Dawkins. David Lynch. Plus anyone who positively influences the world, who is aware of the whole picture and manages to focus on the good rather than the bad in the world, overall.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I will mention a few, although I have conflicting feelings about these traits as I don’t always deplore them: cynicism, the low-key need to be in control, fickleness in some respects, ricocheting between emotional frostiness and impulsiveness, scepticism to the point where I start being sceptical of my own scepticism, and taking myself too seriously (but otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able or feel propelled to write!).

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Duplicity, hypocrisy. Prejudice. Lack of empathy and inability to listen. Arrogance. Wrong life values. Underestimating me.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My luxury perfume collection. Not sleeping at night.

What is your favourite journey?
towards self-awareness and self-development, through self-indulgence and creative fulfilment.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. Sympathy (not empathy). Contentment. Humility and prudence in women’s case. 

On what occasion do you lie?
When the conversation doesn’t matter, or when I’m convinced that telling the truth wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone involved. 

Which living person do you most despise?
anyone who uses their power to negatively influence, harm, ruin, or eradicate the lives of innocent people, either on an individual level, or on an organised level.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
aesthetic. surreal. oh my god. yeah. no.

What is your greatest regret?
caring when I shouldn’t have. not caring when I should have.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
perfume, cinema, music, labyrinthine architecture

When and where were you happiest?
I don’t remember exactly but I’m gonna say it was probably a case of frisson- “aesthetic chills”- that I experienced whilst watching a hypnotic, revealing, or epiphany-inducing film or piece of art.

Which talent would you most like to have?
a mesmerising, emotion-inducing, magical singing voice.

What is your current state of mind?
introspective. conflicted.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d give myself an infinite dose of productivity and the capacity to love the world freely and unconditionally. Getting rid of grudges. Being less fickle/wishy-washy in some respects.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
rising from the flames like a Phoenix.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
a fairy or a nymph.

What is your most treasured possession?
my perfume collection, my films collection, my velvet dresses collection,

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
not living the life you want, letting obsessions or demons consume you, feeling trapped.

Where would you like to live?
in a beautiful place adorned with paintings and different styles of decorations on each floor or in each room (Gothic, minimalist, dreamy, airy fantasy style etc). Also in the distant future, maybe on a different, ultra-advanced planet. Either that or in one of the many film fantasy worlds I love.

What is your favourite occupation?
maladaptive daydreaming

What is your most marked characteristic?
being artistically-inclined. being headstrong, perceptive/astute, experiencing derealisation and zoning out (this sounds contradictory to the astuteness, but it’s actually not!); inquisitive, independent-minded, and a freethinker. looking sad or annoyed when I’m actually in a neutral or thoughtful mood.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Intelligence (including emotional intelligence), genuineness, confidence -not cockiness, self-awareness

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
strength, genuineness, intelligence, confidence, self-awareness

What do you most value in your friends?
kindness, authenticity, having my best interests at heart, trustworthiness, & respecting confidentiality

Who are your favourite writers?
Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Vladimir Nabokov, Hermann Hesse

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Jessica Jones, Vanessa Ives, Jean des Esseintes, Violet Baudelaire, Rogue

What do you dislike most about your appearance?
I like my appearance overall, but there are two or three things I would/will probably change if I can.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Inspiring women who are unapologetically fierce and do whatever they feel like (unless they are psychopaths or something equally worrying).

What are your favourite names?
Morgana, Diana, Ariadna, Mordred, Crystal.

What is it that you most dislike?
pity, prejudice, labels.

How would you like to die?
Knowing that I will be revived as an immortal goddess, mostly because I want to live forever, but all the other perks would be fun too!

What is your favourite motto?
Do no harm, but take no shit. // C’est la vie. //
Incantation-“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
Quotes-“I stopped explaining myself when I realised other people only understand from their level of perception.”
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”


Write your own answers to all or some of these below, I’m interested to see!

Reflections on reading

Published in Education in the Digital Era, March 2019

Books are not only the arbitrary sum of our dreams, and our memory. They also give us the model of self-transcendence. […] They are a way of being fully human.”- Susan Sontag

The multifaceted nature of literature encompasses an abundance of purposes when it comes to the act of reading, such as functioning as a vehicle of escapism, working as a tool to enhance self-awareness, setting in motion cultural and social change starting from individual transformation, inspiring metaphorical deaths and resurrections of selves, summoning childhood magic and nostalgia associated with books we grew up with and memories entangled with their reading, perceiving the human spirit as shaped through time within specific historical and cultural frameworks, as well as strengthening our connection with others by making us recognise ‘the other’ within us, and providing a mirror that we can use to face the world with empathy and acceptance as we fully acknowledge its realness and complexity.

Reading can be seen as a spiritual journey, since it inspires a form of awakening. Stories we read during our formative years, during an early stage in our lives that is of utmost significance memory-wise, those stories will potentially remain the most enchanting reading experiences, because they enter our mind at a time when we tend to simply absorb every evocative image, every symbol, indiscriminately, unassumingly, with naivety and curiosity, and when simple yet vivid memories are formed. Later, as we mature and acquire more knowledge- not exclusively literary, whilst we learn to be more discerning, selective, as well as developing critical thinking, we are encouraged to deeply reflect on the strings of words in front of our eyes- sometimes, however, at the expense of the child-like wonder and the child’s way of seeing, of disappearing, and truly living within a story.

While expressing her views on reading, Virginia Woolf emphasises that, whereas we should follow our instincts in reading rather than having someone else dictate the way in which we experience a literary piece, we should also avoid falling into the trap of projecting our pre-conceived ideas and judgements onto a piece of writing immediately, and instead, at first, decrease the volume of our critical voice in order to embrace the author’s voice and the creative process, to open our minds and let the thoughts of another flow into them. Afterwards, as cultivated readers, we can ponder on underlying themes and psychoanalytical symbolism, stylistic categorisations, meta-references, the larger aesthetic value of the work, character development, feminist interpretations and critiques, and the historical, socio-cultural, political or conceptual frameworks. As a Literature and Film graduate, I have found that temporarily tuning out certain aspects of this critical side that became a natural inclination in my reading is ideal if I wish to retain the pleasure of the act and to prevent disillusionment. Otherwise- and I have known Literature and Film students at university who faced such concerns- the enjoyment of a piece of writing or art in general might be diminished. When we let ourselves be fully engrossed by the words, something pure and beautiful happens: we disappear and live within a story, we allow ourselves to be bewitched by lyricism, to recognise the emotions evoked in a poem, to let them inspire us; we perceive and visualise the world conceived by another mind, unfolding within our own mind. That is when we can identify with a character, as well as finding traces of this character within ourselves, savouring every mental image, finding something interesting and revealing in every echo while devouring a good book. This way, we shift from clichés to something more intimate, from patterns of thinking to a unique taste of and insight into individual consciousness.

During literary studies at university, our way of reading pieces of literature is, indeed, interestingly shaped, to a certain degree, by the modules we opt for and their structure, particularly the recommended critical interpretations and analysis of the works in question or, more broadly, of literary movements, periods, and other divisions. Once you place everything in a cultural, social, or historical context, or consider the psychoanalytical dimensions of a text, or interpret narratives from a feminist point of view, it can influence your process of experiencing other works and how you delve into them. This aspect is also facilitated by a tendency towards syntopical or comparative reading, which is recommended within an academic context- particularly in analysing critical theory books and essays- and rightfully so, since it is a useful tool for finding your own voice, forming your own opinions, gaining perspective, and developing critical thinking skills which are so essential in various areas of life. As a result, while reading prose fiction for instance, our minds may involuntarily jump to underlying commentaries and themes, paying more attention to connotations of nuances and how they fall into a wider sociocultural, ideological, or psychological framework. This may seem like a double-edged sword because it appears to be in contrast to the previous idea of experiencing a written story viscerally, intimately. However, as previously mentioned, the mind can be trained to read differently for pleasure, inspiration, or educational purposes and everyone can shift between different methods of reading.

Placing a literary piece into the complex puzzle of history, can be particularly revealing and useful, for instance, when we read literature associated with silenced voices and with otherness: such literary works give us the chance to get an insight into the psyche of figures whose lives seem so distinct from ours and explore uncharted mental territories, an inner journey which will also prove to be self-revealing, whilst at the same time requiring transcendence. Reading can, indeed, often initiate us into a ritual of self-transcending. Language mediates our connection with our own selves as much as it mediates our connection with the world around us. Reading can be viewed as a process of merging contrasts: between temporality and atemporality, the tangible and the incorporeal, presence and absence, closeness and remoteness, self and other, the intimate and the universal, the evanescent and the eternal, a grasped world and an elusive one.

status quo

The universal shift of focus
from being to seeming
permeates our age of confusion.

Identity & divided introspection

As a Postgraduate student in the arts (the extended definition of art, including film, photography, and literature), I often find that I have to reconcile two sides of myself when it comes to my blog and digital footprint, both of these sides being complex and assertive to the point that I can call them two selves:

One of them is my artistic identity, which has been shaped over the years by several factors, hopefully progressing in style, concept, aesthetic, and presentation. This self prefers to express an inner world indirectly, through symbols and conceptual images. Within this context, there are concerns about projection and representation: the conception of the self, the reconciliation between truth and appearance, the gaps in between, inner and outer perceptions, and questions regarding aesthetic. I explore my self through different forms of art, the result being a reflection of something within. This is why I tend to eliminate previous work, once I feel like I surpassed it in some way, like I have become someone else since then, and I no longer identify with the selves I presented prior to some particular life-turning knowledge. This self thinks creating art is the aim; this self is raw, unapologetic about its at times elusive symbolic nature in which there is depth and sincerity to be found, but which is often too preoccupied with finding the right way of expression. Through this perception, less is more when it comes to conveying what is within, in that explanations are unnecessary, as creative endeavours are self-sufficient. Creative language is essential and absolute to how I perceive myself. Thus I don’t like talking about myself directly, for it seems any description would not comprise all the depths.

However, objectively, you cannot always tell that much about someone’s personality through their artwork, of whatever nature, and I am saying this despite the fact that I feel like I pour myself entirely into it, sometimes. In fact, perhaps, being on the outside, looking in, you can only see a fraction, which is open to interpretation. When you take a photograph of a place you experienced with rapture, or a portrait, you remember those moments, and you associate the photograph with them, feeling that it conveys so much because it is charged with your feelings. But those emotions remain within you, and the photograph is an extension of you, thereby others will not perceive it as you do. They will perceive it based on how it resonates with their own being.

To return to the suggested dichotomy, the other self involves the social and analytical nature. The one allowing me to write this sincere post in a public space, going against the privacy and representation concerns of the first. Because of this other inclination, I started my blog, rather than simply going for a portfolio website. Because of this, I did not use a pen name for it. In this case, the social use of language is essential, while promoting or exploring the poetic and photographic language. Sincerity means exposure; exposure means sincerity. Reaching others through this sincerity and through more unequivocal forms of expression is important. This self mediates my relationship with the outside world. It also means I try to let go, allow myself to make progress in various areas of life without having to get rid of previous versions of myself forever. This self is raw and unapologetic about its direct stream-of-consciousness confessions.

In other words, there is a constant battle between revealing too much and not revealing enough when it comes to life, social media persona, just as when you take a photograph. Should there be a curation of thoughts? Yes. Should it be based on what makes sense at the time, or what seems to represent a more long-lasting belief? Most websites, and most artworks imply careful curation of content. Sometimes it feels that you can more easily convey something, your artistic awareness, and an awareness of what is within, an inner permanence and at the same time touch an audience through selected conceptual artwork rather than distract with random thoughts and perhaps temporary beliefs, whilst other times it feels like these perhaps not-so-random thoughts and temporary beliefs are a significant part of you, as they represent your thought process at a particular time, even if you later realise it was not perfect. Being able to balance these two comes with experience.

There are many branches in this tree, and this post extended on many, but hopefully they can all be grasped without leaves falling.

Reflections in puddles

On a rainy day in late July, I went for a stroll in Hyde Park to capture moving images of nature. I was particularly on a quest of finding moments and details that would otherwise perhaps pass without being noticed or fully admired – abstract elements inducing reverie. My favourite bits were the beautiful reflections of the trees, with wind-blown branches, the skies, and the clouds into the puddles disturbed by occasional raindrops.

The scenery was a bit gloomy, yet calm and breathtaking nonetheless. These clips were part of my final project, Requiem for the Awakening.

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Pleasures in life

My happiness is sometimes derived from:

The scents of acacia flowers, honeysuckle and snowdrops; the taste of greengages.

Moments when I feel I love what I am doing: when I get excited while reading research or creative writing – and, consequently, when I feel like I can contribute to the research or I can create stories – either through words or photographs. When I am inspired – to create and to live fully.

Meeting people I truly connect with. Everything is genuine and pure, everything flows, the masks are left aside, and no one questions another’s words or feelings. You just know what is happening, share the same smile, and are able to live, truly live in each other’s company without performing. The feeling of belonging.

Peace of mind, in general, or moments of blissful lightheartedness. When every veil of worry, gloom or heaviness is lifted up and I feel unconditional love and self-love within. This is also when I can appreciate every simple aspect of being. It even feels like my body is lighter, like I float, just as my thoughts do.

Wandering in fantasy worlds reminiscent of my childhood.

Running. Setting goals and accomplishing them.

Finding a film I am profoundly touched by. If you know me, you know how intensely I can immerse into films. I become the character, I live the films when I watch them. The pleasure consists in the experience itself, in losing and finding yourself in a concept or a story. It can be revealing, too.

Adventures. waterfalls. explorations in nature; admiring its grandeur, but also the grandeur of an old temple or a rich urban or futuristic noir-looking area.

Those rare moments my writing always eventually comes back to; the ones I try to grasp through words, but fail. Those surreal moments.

Living in a place decorated by me, where I can have my own space, a secret garden where my pet would dwell, and arch-shaped windows. The decor would be elegantly dark in some rooms, fantasy-like in others, and there will be at least one room with everything in it white and light (see Valerie’s room from “Valerie and her Week of Wonders”). There would be Gothic art, paintings spanning different cultures, motifs, and ages – with a preference for Pre-Raphaelite depictions of mythological scenes, candlelit rooms at night, and classical and dark atmospheric music filling the hallway. Ideally, I’d have this variety of design styles to suit my whims.

To mention a one-off: Hearing Sharon den Adel’s angelic voice for the first time, and seeing her on stage at Artmania Festival.

What makes you happy?

Hebden Bridge ruins

We arrived at the Hebden Bridge train station: On our side – flowers and yellow bricks, on the other side- a wall of trees. Overall, there was an aura of dreamlike atemporality.
Remember “Life on a train platform” by Octavian Paler. Remember that Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath graced the valleys of this town with their presence. Sylvia Plath: enrapturing writer, with a devouring lyricism wrapped around her being. I still have to finish her Unabridged Journals, having started reading them at Essex.
They buried her in the small village of Heptonstall, not far away from Hebden Bridge. As expected, Heptonstall is my future destination, together with The Brontës’ moors. Yorkshire nature, with its trails of whispers, is full of literary references, and exploring it is a wonderful experience, bleak at times, but wonderful nonetheless.

Sitting at the Stubbing Wharf, a pub from Hebden Bridge with Plath, Hughes writes his reflections in the eponymous poem from Birthday Letters:

“This gloomy memorial of a valley,
The fallen-in grave of its history,
A gorge of ruined mills and abandoned chapels,
The fouled nest of the Industrial Revolution
That had flown.” – Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

Plath writes about the Bronte Moors:

“There is no life higher than the grasstops
Or the hearts of sheep, and the wind
Pours by like destiny, bending
Everything in one direction.[…]
The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Grey as the weather.[…]
I come to wheel ruts, and water
Limpid as the solitudes
That flee through my fingers.
Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;
Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.
Of people the air only
Remembers a few odd syllables.
It rehearses them moaningly:
Black stone, black stone.
The sky leans on me, me, the one upright
Among the horizontals.
The grass is beating its head distractedly.
It is too delicate
For a life in such company;
Darkness terrifies it.
Now, in valleys narrow
And black as purses, the house lights
Gleam like small change.” – Sylvia Plath, Wuthering Heights

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yorkshire-nature-bnw-tree-hebden-bridge-01
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Diary entry: library

The pleasure of feeling beams of light piercing through tired, stained windows and caressing the air impregnated by particles of dust. The pleasure of being inside, away from the unbearable, threatening sunlight. Expressionistic shapes are formed on old grey walls holding Pre-Raphaelite portraits of mythical women. A shuttering of a window, a shuttering of a book, a shuttering of a mouth after a hasty yawn. Steps – some confident, some shy, some confused or determined, intermittently disrupting an enchanting silence. Wings cleaving the warm air surrounding a five storey building populated by anxious or dreamy souls. A crow gazing straight into the eyes of a figure that returns the gaze, seemingly bewildered. The sound of the wind shouting at buildings. The sound of nature against architecture. The sound of destruction, the sound of collapse.