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Introduction

“I have always considered that philosophy must not be intellectual but something which starts from our sensibility.”

Witold Gombrowicz was fascinated by philosophy throughout his lifetime. At as early as age fifteen, he spoke of having looked through Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and other great philosophical works.

 

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Drawing by Wiktor Sadowski.


Later, in Argentina, after having quit his job at Buenos Aires’s Banco Polaco, Witold Gombrowicz earned some extra income by giving philosophy courses, which proved very successful. His first public included his Polish emigrant friends and cultivated women who were as poor as he was, and to whom he offered his hat at the end of the lectures. He continued his teaching with young Argentinians in the cafés. In Vence in 1967 during the work on the Interviews with Dominique de Roux, Witold Gombrowicz told the young French editor the details of his life in Argentina.

 

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Witold Gombrowicz during a philosophy lesson in Vence, May 1969. Photo by Hanne Garthe.


When Witold Gombrowicz fell seriously ill in the spring of 1969, Dominique de Roux, hoping to distract the writer and lighten his spirits, asked him to give philosophy lessons to himself and to Gombrowicz’s Rita. The notes from these lectures, in French, made up a book that was neither finished nor revised, as Witold Gombrowicz died on July 24. The last lecture (on structuralism) was missing. Gombrowicz wanted to present this lecture in half an hour—from which came the title Dominique de Roux decided to give the book. The text was first published in 1971 in the Cahier Gombrowicz that de Roux undertook for Éditions de l’Herne, which he edited.

 

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Spanish edition, Tusquets Editores, 1997. Drawing: “Mindworks” by Rob Collvin.


The text was published in French as Leçons de philosophie en six heures un quart by Éditions Payot-Rivages, Paris, in 1995.
It was Znak of Kraków that first published the text, translated from French to Polish by Bogdan Baran with a preface by F. M. Cataluccio, in 1995, as an independent volume titled A Guide to Philosophy in Six and a Half Hours. In 2001, Ed. Wydawnictwo Literackie of Kraków put out a volume in a new translation from the French by Ireneusz Kania, with a preface by Michał Paweł Markowski, under a definitive title : Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes.