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Pantheon Books

Pantheon’s founder, Kurt Wolff, was born in Germany in 1887 to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. He studied German literature and in 1913, founded Kurt WolffVerlag. Among the authors he published were Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel, and in German translation, Emile Zola, Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekhov, and Sinclair Lewis. Admiring the way young up-and coming American publishers such Alfred A. Knopf and Random House’s Bennett Cerf employed contemporary, cutting-edge artists for text design, book jackets, and newspaper advertising, he did likewise, for which he was criticized by other German publishers. The deteriorating German economic conditions forced Wolff to close Kurt Wolff Verlag in 1930, and the changing political climate resulted in his decision to emigrate in 1933. He spent several years in France and then in Italy, where he became publishers of Pantheon Case Editrice, which he had co-founded in 1924. Wolff and his wife, Helen, emigrated to the United States in 1941. Within a year, they founded Pantheon Books in a one-room office in lower Manhattan. Wolff specialized in publishing literature in translation by authors such as Hermann Broch, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Boris Pasternak, Karl Jung and Gunter Grass. He also published important works on art history. In 1961, Bennett Cerf bought Pantheon and it became a part of Random House. Today, Pantheon is part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group and continues to publish world-class literature. Pantheon’s authors include Julia Glass, James Gleick, Ha Jin, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Alexander McCall Smith, Marjane Satrapi, Art Spiegelman, and Studs Terkel.

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