Proust Questionnaire 9: Paul Lynch

Philip French at home his cinema room in London

This is not Paul Lynch, but I thought he wouldn’t mind, since like the great Philip French, he is also a film critic. Philip French recently retired from The Observer, and I will miss his writing a lot. If there is ever an opportunity to slot in reference to him, I will take it.

However, this is actually Paul Lynch –


He is a film critic, and writer, and his debut novel Red Sky in Morning was recently released to great critical acclaim. He appears with Peter Murphy at Smock Alley tonight.

What is your idea of happiness?

Fresh fish off the pan by a cerulean sea, sharing a bottle of red wine with my lady.

Where would you most like to live?

At the moment, New York

What is your favourite virtue?


What are your favourite qualities in a man?

The ability to chop down trees, to hunt and skin rabbits, to rebuild a car engine. None of which I possess.

What are your favourite qualities in a woman?

Can I speak of these here?

What do you most value in your friends?

That quality of timelessness, where you can pick up with a friend as if you had just been with them yesterday.

What is your biggest weakness?

Red wine and gin-based cocktails

What do you enjoy doing most?

Drinking red wine and gin-based cocktails

What is your most marked characteristic?

I would like to think my warm and generous personality, though those closest to me would probably say my intolerance of ignorance. Those who don’t know me would say my Byronic hair.

What is your idea of misery?

Having to read an awful book, or being without books at all.

If not yourself, who would you like to be?

When I get tired of being myself, I dream into my characters,

What is your favourite colour and flower?

I tend to wear a lot of black. Flower? The head-bowed, ephemeral bluebell.

What is your favourite bird?

The much-misunderstood magpie. In China they are a symbol of good-luck.

Who are your favourite writers?

This could be a long list: Saul Bellow, Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy, Hilary Mantel, Flannery O’Connor, Vladimir Nabokov, WG Sebald, Juan Rulfo, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens. A new addition to the ever-expanding list is Roberto Bolano.

Who are your favourite poets?

John Milton, Seamus Heaney, Fernando Pessoa, TS Eliot, David Harsent, Gerard Manley Hopkins…

Who are your favourite artists?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder. I’ve been fortunate to see most of his masterpieces in the various museums.

Who are your favourite musicians?

John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Sviatoslav Richter, Kirk Hammet, Grant Green, Esbjorn Svensson…

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in fiction?

I recently read Bolano’s 2666 and adored Benno von Archimboldi: the dedication to writing; the disregard for recognition; the fearlessness in art.

Who are the heroes and heroines in your life?

That generation of writers — the likes of Don DeLillo, Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon — who eschewed publicity, interviews, book tours, and Proustian questionnaires, and just got on with the writing.

Who are your favourite heroes and heroines in history?

Any writers or thinkers who have dealt with head-on and fearlessly with what it means to be alive outside of the dream of religion.

What is your favourite food and drink?

Fois gras slabbed on top of a rib-eye steak with a glass of super-Tuscan red wine. Nom nom.

What are your favourite names?

If I ever have a daughter I am going to call her Alice-Eve

What do you most dislike?

Sloppiness. If you are going to do the job, DIFR*.

(* do it f__king right).

Which historical figures do you most dislike?

The neoplatonists. They set us up for a 1,500-year rule of mystical ignorance.

What event in history do you most admire?

The first man or woman who drank that fermented juice. What a moment!

What social movement do you most admire?

I would have to say the feminist movement. Though I think we can all move on now and embrace equalism. Men have it hard too, you know.

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

I would love to be able to play the piano or paint.

How would you like to die?


What is your present state of mind?

Anxious and excited. I have begun writing my third book.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Waiters who take an order without writing it down. I’m sorry mate, but you are going to get something wrong.

Which fault in others do you most easily tolerate?

I do my best to take a mindful attitude to the people in my life. This is a work in progress.

Which fault in yourself do you most easily tolerate?

My almost complete unawareness of mess. My inability to do DIY and gardening. The fact that I can’t drive (yet). My ability to be lost in my head while others are talking to me.

What is your motto?

Ostinato rigore! It comes from Leonardo da Vinci and means, more or less, don’t stop until it is right.



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