Althusser and his wife Hélène Rytman were in London for a few days to visit their friend, the Chilean surrealist painter Matta. It was his first visit to England. He seems to have rung because of the Gramsci essay in no. 100, since he is working on an article on Gramsci for
Rinascita.There were four hours of conversation.
AN AFTERNOON WITH ALTHUSSER
Althusser was in general unforthcoming on biographical matters—personal questions about his history encountering a wary, although not blank response. The two main experiences of his youth were Catholicism, with its then interest in ‘the social question’ (one of them, he commented ironically), and five years of imprisonment in Germany during the war. His education was broken by the war, in the way that those of Williams or Hobsbawm were, resuming again in 1945. He received little philosophical training, attending some lectures by Merleau-Ponty at best. His decision to join the party in 1948 was not motivated by the advances of the Chinese revolution, or by the Czech crisis, but seems to have been the product of a gradual evolution from 1945 onwards (effects of Spanish Civil War also), precipitated by personal factors (his encounter with his wife, of whom he did not speak?—a surmise).
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