Sophie Calle and Grégoire Bouillier

Questionnaire

Translation by Bill Berkson
then answered by Harry Mathews,
then answered by Andrei Codrescu,
with thanks to Constance Lewallen and Harry Mathews, and with a brief note on Proust.



When did you last die?

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

What became of your childhood dreams?

What sets you apart from from everyone else?

What is missing from your life?

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

Where do you come from?

Do you find your lot an enviable one?

What have you given up?

What do you do with your money?

What household task gives you the most trouble?

What are your favorite pleasures?

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

Cite three living artists whom you detest.

What do you stick up for?

What are you capable of refusing?

What is the most fragile part of your body?

What has love made you capable of doing?

What do other people reproach you for?

What does art do for you?

Write your epitaph.

In what form would you like to return?

Sophie Calle & Grégoire Bouillier: Questionnaire

Answered by Harry Mathews



When did you last die?

— May 11, 1774.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

— Having to piss.

What became of your childhood dreams?

— They disappeared into books.

What sets you apart from from everyone else?

— 6 ft 2 in.

What is missing from your life?

— My forties.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

— Not until they are.

Where do you come from?

— Manhattan.

Do you find your lot an enviable one?

— I guess so.

What have you given up?

— Several women.

What do you do with your money?

— Have fun.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

— Putting away my books.

What are your favorite pleasures?

— Love, wine, music, tennis (on TV)

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

— An all-purpose pill.

Cite three living artists whom you you detest.

— But they’re friends of mine!

What do you stick up for?

My Life in CIA.

What are you capable of refusing?

— An invitation to the White House.

What is the most fragile part of your body?

— My common sense (wherever it’s located).

What has love made you capable of doing?

— Shutting up.

What do other people reproach you for?

— My luck.

What does art do for you?

— Ecstasy.

Write your epitaph.

— More!

In what form would you like to return?

— As a cat in the house of a woman who loves cats.


Sophie Calle & Grégoire Bouillier: Questionnaire

Answered by Andrei Codrescu



When did you last die?

— A hundred times since. A thousand deaths after that, for sure. I almost died ten times that many. Coming over Mt. Tam in the fog most recently, 7/22/05. One time on acid, but I didn’t go there. In my dreams, twice that I remember. I may be dead now. I’m writing this from the other side. Once under hypnosis in the 16th century in my monkish cell: I was a scribe in the marketplace in Toledo. And a lot of times I didn’t know it.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

— Inner clock; erection; the thrill of not having died in my sleep; curiosity; making some money.

What became of your childhood dreams?

— I’m almost there, give me a little more time.

What sets you apart from everyone else?

— Nothing, except my incredible charm.

What is missing from your life?

— Some members of my harem. Actually, truth be told, nothing right now.

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?

— Yes, but why?

Where do you come from?

— From the first days of peace in Europe after WW2. I was a pampered child because everyone died in the war. God sent me to bring happiness to the depressed survivors.

Do you find your lot an enviable one?

— Surely, the Sour Grapes Brigade are after me as we speak. I will never tell them the truth, which is that there is nothing enviable about growing older.

What have you given up?

— Cigarettes, alcohol (mostly), threesomes, obligatory art events, books I once thought I should read but never did.

What do you do with your money?

— I spend it on ephemeral pleasures, mostly food and presents.

What household task gives you the most trouble?

— Cords, technology, figuring out remotes

What are your favorite pleasures?

— Seeing Laura laugh, knowing that my children are OK, a great paragraph in a book, a new street in a new city, found objects, things to photograph, sitting in a coffee house with my laptop watching a beautiful girl, lying on soft grass in a meadow in the mountains with big boulders above and dark woods below, remembering great embarassing moments and not feeling in the least embarassed now, happy that people still read my dead friends’ poetry, and my students (sometimes).

What would you like to receive for your birthday?

— A great design for an extension to my country house and a crew at work ready to finish in one month.

Cite three living artists whom you detest.

— I don’t feel that strongly about any of them. Sometimes I hate Noise.

What do you stick up for?

— The poor, the powerless, and the outnumbered.

What are you capable of refusing?

— Desert.

What is the most fragile part of your body?

— I’m sure I don’t know and I’d like to keep it that way. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.

What has love made you capable of doing?

— Lying (a lot).

What do other people reproach you for?

— Good cheer in the face of swirling horror, unselfconscious joy. As Henry Miller said, it’s easy to find people who’ll empathise with your suffering, but just try being happy, they’ll hate you. Or something like that.

What does art do for you?

— In the past it gave me license to act foolishly, now it soothes me

Write your epitaph.

— Andrei Codrescu does not lie here.
He lies in your grave
Actually, this is a small adaptation from a poet I invented, Julio Hernandez. I assign myself (and my students) an epitaph every day (to be writ upon waking up) so I have reams of them. My executor will have to be an editor.

In what form would you like to return?

— I was thinking Uma Thurman in Les Liasons Dangereuses or John Malcovich with Uma Thurman in bed in that movie


Translation by Bill Berkson
With thanks to Constance Lewallen and Harry Mathews.


The young Marcel Proust was asked to fill out questionnaires rather like this one at two social events: one when he was 13, at the birthday party of a friend, and another when he was twenty years old. Such questionnaires were a common party game at the time.


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