In Zomervlucht the fifty year old musician, Reinier Saltsman, accepts a colleague’s invitation to attend a congress in June in New York. He used to be a talented pianist of international renown. Now he is living a withdrawn life in a rural area with his slightly younger second wife, Karin. Nothing much is happening in his life and the music seems to have sang its swan song with the last talented student he tutors. He ponders his childhood a great deal. His parents were both drowned in a shipwreck and he had never known them, being raised by his grandfather.
‘All that was left of his life was the form. He was in prison from which not much more could escape, apart from the fact he no longer dared to try. Too old. Too late. The summer has passed (…).’
However, a short but intense affair he has with a young black pianist in New York shakes him out of his lethargy. The desire for death which he had been cherishing of late is almost fulfilled as he nearly drowns while out for a jaunt on a pleasure yacht.
Work, life, youth, desires and frustrations are interwoven like the patterns in a fugue, the subject of his most important book. In an interview for American television he compares the midlife crisis to a fugue: around about the age of thirty-five one begins to realize ‘that the second half of the life to come will play itself out as a mirror of the first part.’