Background for Love

Helen Wolff


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Pushkin Press
6 June 2024
ISBN: 9781805330721
224 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Tristram Wolff

A heady, rapturous novel of love and self-discovery in the south of France written by famed publisher Helen Wolff, based on her early life with Kurt Wolff

In a giddy rush, a young woman and her older lover escape the rising fascism of 1930s Berlin for a summer vacation on the Côte d'Azur. As they drive along stunning bays and linger over sumptuous meals, they are enchanted by each other. But their harmony soon falters, and the woman decides she must leave in search of a cottage of her own near Saint-Tropez. There, amid the vineyards and lemon trees, she will forge startling new connections and pass an unforgettable summer of independence and freedom.

Background for Love is an autobiographical novel by the great publisher Helen Wolff, who together with her husband, Kurt Wolff, set up Pantheon Books in America after fleeing Nazi Germany. In the fascinating companion essay, historian Marion Detjen, the author's great-niece, delves into the basis of the novel in Helen's own life as well as the political and social forces that led her to abandon hope of publishing it.

Written in 1932 and now translated into English for the first time by the author's grandson, Tristram Wolff, this is a lushly atmospheric, irresistible story of passion and self-discovery, told from the cusp of disaster.