One of Time's "Must-Read Books of 2019"
One of Vanity Fair's Best Books of the Year, So Far
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Selection
Winner of the German Book Prize, The Capital is an “omniscient, almost Balzac-ian” (Steven Erlanger, New York Times) panorama of splintered Europe.
A highly inventive novel of ideas written in the rich European tradition, The Capital transports readers to the cobblestoned streets of twenty-first-century Brussels. Chosen as the European Union’s symbolic capital in 1958, this elusive setting has never been examined so intricately in literature. Translated with "zest, pace and wit" (Spectator) by Jamie Bulloch, Robert Menasse's The Capital plays out the effects of a fiercely nationalistic “union.”
Recalling the Balzacian conceit of assembling a vast parade of characters whose lives conspire to form a driving central plot, Menasse adapts this technique with modern sensibility to reveal the hastily assembled capital in all of its eccentricities. We meet, among others, Fenia Xenopoulou, a Greek Cypriot recently “promoted” to the Directorate-General for Culture. When tasked with revamping the boring image of the European Commission with the Big Jubilee Project, she endorses her Austrian assistant Martin Sussman’s idea to proclaim Auschwitz as its birthplace—of course, to the horror of the other nation states. Meanwhile, Inspector Émile Brunfaut attempts to solve a gritty murder being suppressed at the highest level; Matek, a Polish hitman who regrets having never become a priest, scrambles after taking out the wrong man; and outraged pig farmers protest trade restrictions as a brave escapee squeals through the streets.
These narratives and more are masterfully woven, revealing the absurdities—and real dangers—of a fracturing Europe. A tour de force from one of Austria’s most esteemed novelists, The Capital is a mordantly funny and piercingly urgent saga of the European Union, and an aerial feat of sublime world literature.
Praise For The Capital: A Novel…
— Dwight Garner, New York Times
[A] stinging office satire… A Joseph Heller-like funhouse of bureaucratic cul-de-sacs, interdepartmental squabbling, nonsensical regulations and embarrassing acronyms… Jamie Bulloch provides the excellent translation.
— Sam Sachs
A brutally funny and exhaustive tableau of both a continent in transition and the organization straining to hold it together…. Menasse writes with a wry, self-deprecating touch. He turns what might have been a dry lecture into a teeming epic that brings to multi-textured life a continent undergoing an identity crisis.
— Andrew R. Chow
Witty but humane.... The massive cast never becomes unwieldy tanks to Menasse’s delightful prose. This epic, droll account of contemporary Europe will be catnip for fans of mosaic novels and comical political machinations.
— Publishers Weekly [starred review]
The first great EU novel.
Like Musil in The Man Without Qualities, [Menasse] has fun with efforts to organize something grand to celebrate an anniversary, here the 50th of the European Commission's founding (he even parodies that book's opening passage).... [An] ambitious panorama that arrives amid the throes of Brexit and the Chinese Year of the Pig. Intelligent, fun, sad, insightful—an exceptional work.
— Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
A thoroughly entertaining fiction that serves both as a sort of campus satire and a novel of ideas.... With its zest, pace and wit, Jamie Bulloch’s translation serves him [Menasse] splendidly.
— Boyd Tonkin, The Spectator
Utterly unique.... In constantly blending styles and genres, Menasse captures the wonderful diversity of cultures that the EU has brought together. Winner of the German Book Prize, this is part celebration of the EU and part farce, a strange, timely novel emphasizing the benefits of international institutions at precisely a moment when they are increasingly under stress.
— Alexander Moran, Booklist
A first-class read.
Mischievous yet profound.
Pioneering the genre of Eurolit.
Liveright, 9781631495717, 416pp.
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
About the Author
Jamie Bulloch is a historian and translator of German literature. He won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for his translation of The Mussel Feast.