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Die Hauptstadt

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,465 ratings  ·  206 reviews
In Brüssel laufen die Fäden zusammen – und ein Schwein durch die Straßen.

Fenia Xenopoulou, Beamtin in der Generaldirektion Kultur der Europäischen Kommission, steht vor einer schwierigen Aufgabe. Sie soll das Image der Kommission aufpolieren. Aber wie? Sie beauftragt den Referenten Martin Susman, eine Idee zu entwickeln. Die Idee nimmt Gestalt an – die Gestalt eines Gespen
Hardcover, 460 pages
Published September 11th 2017 by Suhrkamp
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,465 ratings  ·  206 reviews

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Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austria, 2019-read
Here it is: The first major novel about the inner workings of European politics in our capital, Brussels. While the tone is often light and ironic, this book is whip-smart when it dissects the many conflict lines that we are struggling with in the EU, on a continent steeped in blood, where history is always also personal history and different views collide all. the. time. Democracy means to acknowledge and handle conflict, and to do that is sometimes hard - so hard in fact, that some people seem ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
+++ Winner of the German Book Award 2017 +++

In the center of this novel is the thought of a European Union that develops beyond national borders, beyond nationalities. But is it a thought experiment, a novel set in this future? No, sadly it isn't – that would be a novel I would have loved to read. Rather, it is a novel of people – EU officials, and a retired university professor invited to a think tank for the European Council – talking about the future of the EU. This makes it rather less engag
Roman Clodia
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's something very European about this novel which exudes a sensibility that a British novelist just doesn't have. Partly it's stylistic, the mix of satire, farce and something more serious epitomized by the PR campaign to make Auschwitz the heart of the EC jubilee: an idea both grotesque and yet, oddly, moving as the European project for supranational unity was launched in the wake of the Holocaust and the devastation of WW2.

Menasse has a sharp eye for career bureaucrats and creaking proce
Paul Fulcher
"This was about the Commission rather than “the E.U.”, it was about stripping the Commission of its image as an institution of unworldly bureaucrats and presenting it as guardian of the lessons of history and of human rights."

Robert Menasse's Die Hauptstadt won the German Book Prize, and has now been published in English as The Capital, ably translated by Jamie Bulloch.

Bulloch is perhaps best known as translator of The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, winner of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for Ger
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A timely and somewhat satirical look at the intricacies of the European Commission and the wider European political establishment as a whole, whilst Britain struggles to make sense of the decision to leave our European friends and how best to do so. It's a weaving together of seemingly unrelated subplots, which are barmy to say the least, and an adventure through the life of an organisation comprised for the greater good and its association with our identity. Winner of the German Book Prize, The ...more
Friederike Knabe
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german-lit
A very interesting and relevant book. As a novel not the easiest to read. But seeing as a whole, worth the effort. The story is built through several separate profiles that eventually, as one can assune, will overlap or otherwise connect. It is after all the portrait of a complex and multilayered "capital" - Brussels.
Robert Menasse’s Die Hauptstadt, winner of the 2017 German Book Prize, has recently being published by MacLehose Press in an English translation by Jamie Bulloch. In this incarnation, the novel’s title is rendered as The Capital. This name, of course, a faithful and literal translation from the German, but I wonder whether it was also meant as a tongue-in-cheek reference to Karl Marx’s epic tome. Indeed, political and economic theories also loom large in Menasse’s Capital, except that they are p ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: austria, europe
This won this (2017) year's German Book Prize, and I guess that is a statement from the jury in times where far right, nationalistic voices are getting louder and more powerful in many European countries.

It's a European Union novel, set in Brussels, with the majority of figures being somehow involved in EU government. Several intertwined and connected stories are framed by a literal pig running through Brussels, I guess that's a joke based on the German 'die Sau durchs Dorf treiben' (to force th
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A timely novel of the EU set in BRUSSELS

This is a timely novel set in Brussels, the city at the heart of the EU. It is the story of individuals in the amorphous mass that is the chugging engine of Europe. The 50th anniversary of the European Commission is coming up and there is much discussion about how best to mark the occasion. Fenia Xenopoulou is in charge and comes up with the notion of putting Auschwitz at the heart of the celebrations. Why wouldn’t you…?

Meanwhile there is a murder case whi
Nov 27, 2018 rated it did not like it
I apologise for criticism, which I'm going to write, but I write it's heart. This book I read, because a former teacher had advised me. First thing, I can tell you of this novel is that I can not tell you that it will. I have read it, but I have not learned. A choral novel is featuring several characters of different nationalities, but I don't know anything more. The first chapter has a very funny thing, and presents the characters, but is the only good thing that has this book. In the Spanish E ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a hugely entertaining book, but at the same time a deep and thoughtful one. It is a many layered book that requires much sorting. What do I mean? Consider ...

The novel is a murder mystery of sorts but hardly a typical one. Secrets and secrets and more.

It is also an extremely snarky social satire on the operations of the European Commission and the careerist dynamics that permeate its professional staff. This is “office lit” without Chinese characteristics. I am certain there are version
Cecilia Bastarrica
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I’m taking a break from this one; it started out pretty interesting but halfway through I must admit I am bored to the point where it’s become a chore to keep reading.
Oscar Despard
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This melting pot of cultures and storylines is a fitting satire on the European Union, painting with a bleak pallette this beleaguered project and the people it comprises. However, one leaves the novel with a deepened sense of how the Union’s worth and achievements contrast with the far less entertaining failures of darker, murkier international arrangements.

The principal conceit of this book is how Menasse builds his views of the European project into the novel’s very structure. A dazzling, eve
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable and interesting read. Just missing: non-white men, as characters, and a non-cheap ending.

(Received free copy of ebook on Goodreads giveaway.)
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a good and important book, but one that transforms generically, from the multilinear blend of destinies that it starts out as, to an essay-novel that delivers a message more efficiently than resolves its narrative knots, toward the end. We meet an array of characters at the outset, all caught in the same moment of perceiving a stray pig running around on the streets of Brussels, and follow each of these characters (the majority of which do not know, or even get to meet each other) throug ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Read for my German lit class at Goethe in Fall 2018. Despite reading with the class, this plot was a bit too complex (and a bit too political) for me to fully follow. I didn’t really enjoy it, but it’s probably more because of how much I either didn’t understand, or else had to read 5 times to understand.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-readings
I read in in two days. Feels like I spent the weekend in Brussels. Now it’s Monday morning and I already miss the characters.
And yes, it tells you a lot about how the EU works but that’s not the main reason I enjoyed it. It’s more the world of characters Menasse created that will stick with me. He is one of the best ceators I have ever had the pleasure to read.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book urgently needs to be translated into other languages.

This is the first novel set in the Brussels policy making machinery. And it's lucid, quirky, and funny.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone who lives and works in the Eurobubble, this book has been a strange experience: I found myself in some of the situations outlined. The descriptions of Brussels are very well written, both when it comes to its citizens and its streets.

Hated some of the characters (yes Xeno, looking at you) but laughed a lot. True that to fully understand some of the jokes you need to know quite well the environment though, so I don't think this is a reading for everyone. There is a lot of symbolism, hi
Americans don’t commonly read novels of ideas, but readers in other nations do. Hence other nations have publishers who print them in (sometimes) impressive quantities. A handful get translated and are sold in small numbers in the US, which brings me to The Capital. It’s a clever, fun look at European bureaucracy today. Nice translation. If you liked The Sellout or Red Plenty, you’ll probably like this one, too.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Capital" is a terrific read, packed with great characters, an intriguing plot . . .it just grabs you. It's sharp, funny, and moving.

And then there are the pigs.

Yes, it's the Year of the Pig, there's a pig, or maybe even pigs, on the loose in Brussels, and there are factions in the EU that want to break loose and export pig parts to China. "The Capital" of the title is Brussels which is the capital of the EU and where the characters from all over Europe meet. For Americans, the European Unio
Dean Muscat
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My full review for The Capital is now up on Book Browse:
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is amazing in unfurling the broad story in the first two thirds and then a bit disappointing in how it leaves many things unsaid, unfinished, unconnected. Maybe that is an accurate metaphor of what is going right and wrong in the European Union - the ideas are good, but once they have been watered down and meddled with, not much remains.
In any case, the book gives a rich and human insight to the heart of the European Union and is both entertaining and enlightening (while mostly not pre
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
I'm not sure how I feel about this book.
It felt like a book with no real beginning and no end.
A snippet from the heart of the European Union.
I'm not sure if one of the premisses which moves the plot forward is factually correct.
Are member states of the European states free to negotiate individual trade deals?
"one of the main basic features of the European Union is that EU countries cannot negotiate individual trade deals without side countries and instead do so as a bloc of 28"
May 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Scenes from the lives of Brussels bureaucrats. Also a murder and a pig on the loose. It has somewhat too much plot and too many underdeveloped characters, though the bureaucracy scenes can be hysterically funny. I had no idea academic life (where we're busy "visioning" the future of the university) and mid-level EU bureaucrat life had so many similarities...
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Clearly an interesting book that keeps you engaged throughout all the pages. Enjoyed reading it!
It’s nice how different characters blend somehow together, exactly like Brussels manages to blend so many nationalities in a sort of a working way.
Birgitt Krumboeck
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely an interesting take on the EU and its raison d'etre... However, I found it a bit depressing at the beginning and that it involved too many characters. I almost stopped reading it. However, after I got over the hump, I was glad that I finished it.
T.J. Burns
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley Germany in exchange for an honest review.
David Mosler
3.5, really. An entertaining read, especially for someone who has worked in Brussels.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Although I agree with his analysis on the future of Europe, I found this a sombre book: the endless bureaucracy, the many loose ends and superfluous explanations..
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Der "Erwachsenen-...: Die Hauptstadt - Robert Menasse 23 27 Mar 10, 2018 05:10AM  

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Robert Menasse is an Austrian writer and essayist. His work has received various awards, including the European Book Prize and the prestigious German Book Prize.
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“Das Problem mit Fremdsprachen [...], wenn man sie nicht zumindest stiefmuttersprachlich beherrschte, war, dass man immer nur sagt, was man sagen kann, und nicht, was man sagen will. Die Differenz ist das Niemandsland zwischen den Grenzen der Welt.” 4 likes
“Als Brussel een open boek was, dan was het een stripboek.” 0 likes
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