June 8, 2019
A key passage in Adalbert Stifter’s Der Nachsommer (Indian Summer) tells of the discovery of an antique marble statue in Cumae, Italy. The account can be read as an archeological scene in which a pretext, Prosper Mérimée’s La Vénus d’Ille , is overwritten and inverted. Both texts were written by authors who were officially nominated inspectors of historical monuments; both reflect on archeological practices related to national heritage. While Mérimée’s novella satirizes a destructive practice of exposure, Stifter promotes a gentle form of excavation in order to restore an intact antiquity. The passage refers to a stratigraphic concept discussed in contemporary archeology which also characterizes the working method of the author himself: a writing in ‘layers’ of pretexts and subtexts that at the same time removes and stacks different levels of structure and meaning.