The Next Chapter·Proust Questionnaire

Anne Michaels shares her favourite characters in fiction

The novelist, poet and nonfiction writer answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Infinite Gradation is Anne Michaels' first nonfiction book. (Exile Editions/Marzena Pogorzaly)

Anne Michaels is an internationally celebrated poet and novelist, whose books include Fugitive PiecesCorrespondences and All We Saw. Her latest book, Infinite Gradationmarks her debut in nonfiction writing. In it, Michaels explores the philosophical implications of language and art. Below, the Toronto writer takes The Next Chapter's version of the Proust Questionnaire.

Name your favourite writers.

"My favourite writer is John Berger, the British writer. An intimate friend of many decades. His work is saturated with compassion. That compassion is so productive, so generative, so hopeful."

Tell me about your favourite character in fiction.

"My favourite character is Kent from King Lear. He is wise, resourceful, always concerned with the common good. He's in no way naïve either, yet he lives and breathes by his ideals. I find him a fascinating character.

"I also have a great affection for Jane in Jane Eyre. She, also in her way, lives according to her ideals and has almost an impeccable integrity."

What do you value most in your friends?

"I value loyalty. I value trust. I think that a friend will offer a hand before you even know you need it. That's a very extraordinary thing."

What is your favourite journey?

"My favourite journey is any journey with my children, whether it's to the corner store or to Australia. Any journey we take together is wonderful."

What is your greatest extravagance?

"My greatest extravagance is books and probably always has been. It's that moment of realizing that you are holding another person's thoughts, their heart, their effort in your hands. To be spoken to directly, which every book does, is a magnificent thing. It's someone whispering in your ear. It's someone who has opened their heart. A book is a kind of embrace of another human being. How wonderful to be found by a book."

What is your greatest achievement?

"I hope my greatest achievement is yet to come."