The Capital


Robert Menasse

Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

Hardback - Demy - 432pp - £15.00 - 21/02/2019 - 9780857058621

Brussels. A panorama of tragic heroes, manipulative losers, involuntary accomplices. No wonder the E.U. Commission is keen to improve its image. The Capital is a sharp satire, a crime story, a comedy of manner, a philosophical essay - the major European novel, published on the eve of Brexit, at its heart the most powerful pro-European message: no-one should forget the circumstances that gave rise to the European project in the first place.

As the fiftieth anniversary of the European Commission approaches, the Directorate-General for Culture is tasked with planning and organising a fitting celebration. The project will serve the wider purpose of revamping the Commission's image at a time of waning public support. When Fenia Xenopoulou's Austrian P.A. Martin Susman suggests putting Auschwitz at the centre of the jubilee, she is thrilled. But she has neglected to take the other E.U. institutions into account.

Inspector Brunfaut is in a tricky situation too: his murder case has been suppressed at the highest level. Luckily, he's friends with the I.T. whizz at Brussels' Police H.Q., who gains access to secret files in the public prosecutor's office. Matek, the Polish hitman, knows nothing of this. But he does know that he shot the wrong guy, and for Matek, who would rather have become a priest, this is serious. And what about the pig farmers who take to the streets of the city to protest about existing trade restrictions blocking the export of pigs' ears to China . . .?

A deliciously vicious - and timely - satire about the E.U. and the meaning of Europe today
— Frederick Studemann, Financial Times
A traditional novel, broad-shouldered, omniscient, almost Balzac-ian, but with terrorism part of a plot centered satirically around an all-too-plausible Brussels idea
— Steven Erlanger, New York Times
An elegantly written, brilliantly constructed novel, full of discussion points and ideas
— Andreas Isenschmid, Die Zeit
A major jubilee project is planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the EU commission. Menasse develops his sophisticatedly constructed story, in which nothing is random, around the preparations
— Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
The politically engaged intellectual proves himself to be an uncompromising and indeed passionate storyteller. A storyteller, moreover, who handles his material so confidently and with such ease that you swiftly forget the complexities of the figures he describes. After almost 500 pages you are astonished to have already come to the end
— Tobias Lehmkuhl, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Writers like Robert Menasse need a wider audience and be given the opportunity to reconnect politicians with intellectuals
— Björn Hayer, Spiegel Online
Elise Williams