Éric Poindron’s Weird Questionnaire:
1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
Once upon a time, there was a field full of glass bottles.
2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it? 23
3 – Look at your watch. What time is it? 23:03
4 – How do you explain this—or these—discrepancy(ies) in time?
Poor time management.
5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?
British – usually yes. Polish – rather not. It used to be a running joke that Polish meteorologists predicted the weather out of coffee dregs.
6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?
7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?
Yes, I try to remember to do it.
8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?
That I wish I knew more of their names. Also a bunch of clichéd things that all of us think.
9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?
Photos from protests against abortion laws being further tightened in Poland, taken by photojournalist Agata Kubis.
10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?
Aesthetically, depending on their architecture, admiration of or annoyance with the design.
Emotionally, because of where I come from, Catholic churches inspire mostly my fear. Other temples – curiosity.
11 – What would you have “seen” had you been blind?
The things that I’d remember, hopefully.
12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?
The faces of the people I love. Vesuvio.
13 – Are you afraid?
14 – What of?
Currently, I’m really terrified of the Polish Church and government. Right-wing governments in general. I’m afraid that the people I love will fall ill and die. I’m scared by the actions of the British Home Office against asylum seekers, people who came here from Commonwealth countries and foreign citizens. Poverty.
15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?
Does it count if I couldn’t bear to finish watching it? A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence by Roy Andersson.
16 – Whom are you afraid of?
Right-wingers. Patriarchal maniacs. Idiots with guns.
17 – Have you ever been lost?
Yes, in Venice. That’s such a cliché.
18 – Do you believe in ghosts?
19 – What is a ghost?
An imagined manifestation of our fears.
20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you hear, apart from the computer?
A crowd of people clapping in a concert hall on TV.
21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?
Unexpected phone calls when my grandma was ill. Cats fighting in our garden last spring.
22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?
Walked around the mountainside with three other photographers, examining a graveyard of glass bottles.
23 – Have you ever been to confession?
Repeatedly, as a Catholic child. It was an awful experience.
24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.
Nothing is unspeakable; there are just different degrees of shame or fear. It is interesting that Catholics are made to confess shameful stories from their private lives to men who are not allowed to have privacy. It’s a good way to bind people together through secrets and shame. When I was a religious child, the unspeakable would have been that I never liked going to church and that it used to bore the hell out of me.
25 – Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?
A collection of mostly foreign objects considered scary, weird and fascinating, especially by the Victorians.
26 – Do you believe in redemption?
If understood as “the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil” then no, because I’m an atheist. If understood as making up for one’s actions, then sometimes yes.
27 – Have you dreamed tonight?
28 – Do you remember your dreams?
29 – What was your last dream?
A complicated escape plot.
30 – What does fog make you think of?
Calm. Wales. Gothic novels.
31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?
There’s supposed to be a panther living up on the mountain opposite our house in Abertillery. I like to believe it’s true.
32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?
Old-fashioned wallpaper. It’s gone a bit soggy from all the humidity.
33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?
34 – What is a madman?
Someone the society deems inadequate or dangerous.
35 – Are you mad?
I’m very mad at the Polish government right now. Reading the news these days makes me question my sanity sometimes. I hope I haven’t gone mad quite yet.
36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?
I think we should be more worried about secrecy in public institutions.
37 – What was the last weird book you read?
“Under the Frangipani” by Mozambican writer Mia Couto. The main protagonist is a spirit narrating from inside someone else’s body.
38 – Would you like to live in a castle?
No. That would be too cold.
39 – Have you seen something weird today?
A porcelain tea cup on the side of the road.
40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?
Probably “Pi” by Darren Aronofsky, or a couple of films by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Also, some of the early Almodovar films.
41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?
If it was a beautiful art nouveau station, then maybe yes. But I like functioning rail transport, so I’d rather stations weren’t abandoned. I’d quite like to live in a train station manager’s house tho’, you still get those in Eastern European countryside and they’re very quaint little cottages with front gardens.
42 – Can you see the future?
I’d rather not. It seems to me more and more that the future is apocalyptic.
43 – Have you considered living abroad?
I already live abroad, but I’d like to live abroad more.
44 – Where?
I’ve lived in Dublin, Naples and Wales. I’d like to try living in Tbilisi next. Also a bunch of other places, perhaps Portugal. Preferably a place with a nice left-wing government and a moderate climate.
45 – Why?
Life is too short to live in one place. I like feeling at home somewhere previously unfamiliar. That’s also why I’ve always enjoyed staying in other people’s houses. One of my favourite quotes is a line from Zadie Smith: “the nightmare is losing the desire to move”. She means it in the context of literary creation, but for me that’s good life advice. Also, when you stay somewhere too long, you collect too much stuff.
46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?
I don’t really own many films. But when it comes to photographic film, there’s a roll of 127 film that me and Dafydd have been using as a double-exposure film swap since 2010. We might finish it one day! Also, we once bought a roll of 120 film from the 1960s. It still worked although the patterns of the backing paper had melted through the roll.
47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?
No, that would be scary.
48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
The weirdest ever? Hard to tell. I’ve read a lot of magic realism, but that’s “weird” by definition, so does it count? Recently I finished “One Day I Will Write About This Place” by Binyavanga Wainaina and he used some of the most unusual and beautiful metaphors I’d ever come across. It would be simplistic to just class them as weird tho’.
49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?
50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?
Antique magnifying glasses.
51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?
Some very shy and odd fish.
52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?
Absolutely not! Having said that, I once saw taxidermied rats dyed different colours of the rainbow by an artist and there were quite beautiful. In the artist’s defence, they had been bought frozen from a pet shop.
53 – Do you like walking in the rain?
Depends on the rain. I like walking in warm rain. Wales has more types of rain than I’d ever expected existed.
54 – What goes on in tunnels?
Echo. Mud. Moss growth.
55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?
56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”
A feeling that I’d rather not read that novel, especially when I was a child.
57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?
Edgar Allan Poe? Oh, just checked and it isn’t.
58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?
No. I don’t believe in ghosts, but still have a vivid imagination. I also trip over things a lot.
59 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
The field was now empty.
60 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it? 23.30
61 – Look at your watch. What time is it? 23.22