The novella work by Hartmut Lange, who was born in 1937, is a solitaire in the literature the presence. Since 1982, approximately seventy texts, some of which are only a dozen pages long and occasionally ten times as long, have appeared, the style of which has hardly changed over the past forty years. Their cool, timeless language often only reveals its enigmatic character when you listen closely, for example when a description of the route that can be checked on a city map turns into a syntactic labyrinth: “… and if you follow the route from the Via Adda to the Having left Via Salaria behind, when, turning left, you have reached the archway that leads to the park, then you see …” Here the awkwardness, almost ugliness of the repetitions (if/if you /by making) the angularity of the route palpable.
It’s about the way to the Villa Albani in Rome. The novel “In der Villa Albani” follows an obviously educated visitor named Herbert Guttendorfer on a visit to the villa, which can only be entered with individual permission. Increasingly puzzling events are taking place, which in the end even raise the possibility that they are being cleared up. Or is it an imagined repetition of an earlier evacuation of the collection set up by Johann Joachim Winckelmann in the 18th century? It was allegedly plundered by the French in 1870, after the papal troops had surrendered to the Italian conquerors of Rome. Or is that just misinformation from that Guttendorfer? The closer you look, the more incomprehensible the clearly described events become.
Exact checking: This is done by a handbook that Jan Drees, literary editor at Deutschlandfunk, has presented for Lange’s novellas. The core of the study, which is also comprehensive bibliographically, are individual commentaries on all of Lange’s narrative texts that have been published to date (with the exception of the most recent volume “Am Osloer Fjord oder der Fremde”). The comments briefly summarize the actions and provide the background knowledge that is alluded to.
The commentary on “Villa Albani” reports on its origins in the 18th century, on Napoleon’s first removal of works of art, on its role as the scene of the war of 1870, and on its closedness to the public. He provides what Walter Benjamin famously defined as “factual content” in contrast to “truth content”, distinguishing between “commentary” and “criticism”: “Criticism seeks the truthfulness of a work of art, commentary its factual content. The relationship between the two determines that basic law of writing, according to which the truth content of a work, the more important it is, the more inconspicuous and intimately linked to its factual content.
This distinction holds true in the admirably selfless work of Drees. Because after every allusion has been deciphered, thinking about the secret of Lange’s novellas begins anew and really.