The Capital

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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
The Capital could hardly be more topical . . . It is about Europe reconnecting with its ideals via a tragic past . . . It’s a smart read, unlike anything being written in Britain today
— David Herman, Jewish Chronicle
Rumbustious . . . deliciously witty
— Paul Connolly, Metro
Menasse has a finely tuned satirical ear that easily criss-crosses borders . . . an intelligently written, pacy novel whose wide-ranging narratives ensure the momentum never wavers . . . Robert Menasse has produced an extraordinary piece of work
— Charlie Connelly, New European
The Capital is a mischievous yet profound story about storytelling; about the art of shaping a narrative by finding resonances in the messy stuff of life . . . [An] unexpectedly delightful book about Brussels
— Economist
A thoroughly entertaining fiction that serves both as a sort of campus satire and a novel of ideas . . . Menasse packs his Brussels with sharply-etched types . . . With its zest, pace and wit, Jamie Bulloch’s translation serves him splendidly
— Boyd Tonkin, Spectator
First-class satire . . .The Capital delivers, within a brilliant satirical fiction, thoughtful and instructive analysis of both the weaknesses in the EU that galvanise leavers and the strengths that motivate remainers
— Mark Lawson, Guardian
Elise Williams