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French author Marcel Proust is famous for his gentle remembrance of things past, his eponymous character-revealing questionnaireﾅ and his love of madeleine cookies.
Camilla Gibb (who wields a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Oxford University) is no less literary, but much less French. She is the award-winning author of four internationally acclaimed novels: Mouthing the Words, The Petty Details of So-And-so’s Life, Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement. Her memoire, This Is Happy, has just published.
Marcel, get out of this Swann’s Way.
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Paddling in a kayak on a still lake with my daughter.
2. What is your greatest fear?
Being destitute. And heights. Being penniless and stuck on the roof of a building that requires an exit fee would, for instance, do me in.
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
How long have you got?
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Lack of empathy.
5. Which living person do you most admire?
Nobody has quite replaced for me Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who died in 2011.
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
7. What is your current state of mind?
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. On what occasion do you lie?
At black-tie literary events when I haven’t read any of the nominated works.
10. What is the quality you most like in a person?
Willingness to try the new.
11. When and where were you happiest?
At the library on Saturday mornings as a child.
12. Which talent would you most like to have?
Shocking mathematical genius.
13. Who are your favourite writers?
Mavis Gallant, David Mitchell, Haruki Murakami, Nicola Barker
14. Who is your hero of fiction?
15. Who are your heroes in real life?
My friend Clare Pain, a psychiatrist who started a program to train psychiatrists in Ethiopia.
16. What is your motto?
New day, new mood. (courtesy of the 4-year-old nephew of a friend.)