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Q&A  •  12 May 2016

 

Fiona Kidman: 21 questions

Find out how Dame Fiona Kidman’s mind really ticks.

To offer a bit of insight into the mind of one of New Zealand’s best-loved writers, we sent her a version of the Proust questionnaire*. Here are her answers...

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To sit quietly and look at the sea on a sunny day. Any sea, anywhere.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Being found out.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I couldn’t possibly say.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A lack of generosity.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
If I said Ian Kidman, I’d probably give him a swollen head. I’ll settle for Nelson Mandela, who I met once.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying books.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Piety.

8. On what occasion do you lie?
That would give the game away if I told you.

9. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My butt, of course.

10. Which living person do you most despise?
Oh no. Too cruel.

11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
The fact is...

12. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Ian Kidman. I’m married to him.

13. When and where were you happiest?
When I first saw my beautiful children. And, perhaps, during the 6 months we lived in Menton on the French Riviera.

14. Which talent would you most like to have?
To be a good singer.

15. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Every time I finish a book it feels like my greatest achievement. I always wonder whether I will ever have the strength to write another one.

16. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A Thai swimming cat. It has fun in the water and is more dangerous than it looks.

17. What is your most treasured possession?
A handwritten book my mother wrote telling the story of her life and those of hers and my forebears.

18. Who are your favourite writers?
Alice Munro, Joan Didion, Carol Shields, just lately Elizabeth Strout, Marguerite Duras, Colette, Chekhov, Graham Greene, Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Michael Harlow (the last three are also among my favourite people), Billy Collins. Dozens. Just dozens.

19. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Ha. Joan of Arc, perhaps! Oh, all right, Katherine Mansfield.

20. Who is your hero of fiction?
Oliver Twist. A little more is always useful.

21. Who are your heroes in real life?
Nelson Mandela. Barack Obama (although I wish he could be just a little more heroic sometimes). Ian Kidman because he was a courageous teacher for 53 years. Alice Munro. Jean Watson, the Wellington writer who opened an orphanage in India.

*The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlour game popularised (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.

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