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Introduction

“But I am a humorist, a joker, an acrobat, a provocateur. My works turn double somersaults to please. I am a circus, lyricism, poetry, horror, riots, games—what more do you want? I am difficult, I admit. When I can’t be otherwise. But if there is a man who writes in the mortal terror of being boring, I am he!”

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Secret: Johann Le Guillerm, Ici Company Circus.

In 1967, the French editor Pierre Belfond, who created a collection of tape-recorded interviews with well-known artists and writers, decided to consecrate a volume to Witold Gombrowicz, who had just won the Prix International des Éditeurs.
Pierre Belfond asked his young colleague and friend, Dominique de Roux, to interview the writer. Since Witold Gombrowicz was asthmatic and incapable at this point of speaking for long periods of time, he did not agree to the tape recording. Even further, as he and his writing were still widely misunderstood, Gombrowicz preferred to express himself in his own language, Polish.

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Witold Gombrowicz and Dominique de Roux during a work session in Vence, 1968. Photo: Christian Leprince.


Dominique de Roux agreed to have Gombrowicz perform the interviews entirely in Polish, responding to questions that they would prepare together.
De Roux made frequent trips to Gombrowicz’s home in Vence, in the south of France.

“I repeat what I wrote in my diary: ‘The purpose of literature is not to solve problems but to set them.’”

Dominique de Roux is the co-author of this book of interviews, which was first published in French by Pierre Belfond in 1968, translated by Koukou Chanska and François Marié, under the title Entretiens avec Witold Gombrowicz (Interviews with Witold Gombrowicz).
In 1977, following Dominique de Roux’s death, Pierre Belfond changed the title to Testament: Entretiens avec Dominique de Roux (published as A Kind of Testament: Interviews with Dominique de Roux in English). This is still the current title.

 

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2004, the centennial of Witold Gombrowicz’s birth. Poster by Leszek Żebrowski.


The Polish edition was published the following year by Kultura’s Literary Institute in Paris, just before Witold Gombrowicz’s death.
Later, the correspondence between Dominique de Roux and Witold Gombrowicz and de Roux’s introductions written for the 1968 and 1977 editions were added to A Kind of Testament.

“I became ‘the poet of form.’
I amputated myself from myself.
I discovered man’s reality in this unreality to which he is condemned.”