Robert Menasse

The Capital

(German title: Die Hauptstadt)
ca. 459 pages
Robert Menasse
Foto: Robert Menasse
© Rafaela Proell

Robert Menasse was born in 1954 in Vienna, where he also grew up. He studied German, Philosophy and Political Science in Vienna, Salzburg and Messina, and received his doctorate in 1980 with a thesis on the character of the outsider in literature. Menasse then spent six years at the University of São Paulo, first as a lecturer for Austrian literature, then as a guest lecturer at the Institute for Literary Theory. There he held lectures on philosophical and aesthetic theories, including on Hegel, Lukács, Benjamin and Adorno. Since his return from Brazil in 1988, Robert Menasse has been a writer and essayist based mainly in Vienna.

Sold to

UK & Commonwealth (MacLehose Press), USA & Canada (W.W.Norton/Liveright), Spanish world rights (Seix Barral), Chinese simplex rights (People's Literature Publishing House), Chinese complex rights (Linking), Russia (Text), Portuguese rights (Dom Quixote), Arabic world rights (AFAQ), France (Verdier), Italy (Sellerio), Netherlands (Arbeiderspers), Denmark (Vandkunsten) Sweden (Weyler), Poland (Noir sur Blanc), Czech Republic (Plus), Hungary (Geopen), Bulgaria (Lege Artis), Lithuania (Tyto Alba), Croatia (Fraktura), Serbia (Arhipelag), Slovenia (Cankarjeva založba), Turkey (Everest), Greece (Patakis), Georgia (Intelekti), Armenia (Antares), India/Hindi (Saar Sansaar)

Domestic Rights Sales: German Audiobook (Der Hörverlag), German Book Club (Büchergilde Gutenberg)

Winner of the German Book Prize 2017

The great European novel. Robert Menasse’s Testament to a Shameful Age.


Brussels. A panorama of tragic heroes, manipulative losers, involuntary accomplices. In his new novel, Robert Menasse spans a narrative arc between the times, the nations, the inevitable and the irony of fate, between petty bureaucracy and big emotions.

Fenia Xenapoulou is facing a career setback. She has been »promoted« to the Department of Culture by the Directorate General – no budget, no power, no reputation. So the »Big Jubilee Project« comes just at the right time for her: she is to revamp the boring image of the European Commission. Her Austrian personal assistant Martin Susmann suggests proclaiming Auschwitz as the birthplace of the European Commission. Fenia is thrilled, but she didn’t take the other European nations into account. Austria: a Polish camp could not be misused to question the Austrian nation. Poland: Auschwitz is a German problem. Germany: Islam, by now a part of Germany, had nothing to do with Auschwitz. What’s more, Fenia can’t count on David de Vriend, one of the last living witnesses, any longer: he runs to the metro station Maalbeek at the wrong time.

Inspector Brunfaut is in a difficult situation as well. He is supposed to leave a murder case covered up at the highest level at rest. But luckily he is friends with the chief computer scientists of the Brussels Police Department, who can gain access to the secret files of the public prosecutor‘s office. Matek, the Polish hitman, knows nothing of this when he makes his escape. But he does know that he shot the wrong guy. That’s not nothing to Matek. He would rather have become ordained a priest; the fact that he had to follow his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps in becoming a “soldier of Christ”, doesn’t really make him happy. And yes, there are others who are unhappy as well: the pig farmers who take to the streets with pitchforks in protest of the existing trade restrictions blocking the profitable export of pigs’ ears to China


»This is an elegantly written, fabulously constructed, very witty and thoughtful novel.« Die Zeit

»More than practically anyone else in German-language literature, Menasse has made the history of Europe his subject.« Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

»The committed intellectual reveals himself here to be an uncompromising, even passionate storyteller, […] who handles his material so masterfully (that due to the lightness of touch one actually forgets the complexity of the constellations of characters so that after nearly five hundred pages [the reader] is astonished that the novel is already at an end.) Skilfully and with great wit Menasse shows time and again […] how swiftly the private can slide into the political, and indeed just how political the private self is.« Tobias Lehmkuhl, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»Depicting the milieu of Brussels bureaucrats poses no difficulties. On the contrary, it is tremendously successful.« Jochen Hieber, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»A coup – so far no writer of quality has tried to find out whether European bureaucracy works as a literary concept…with his novel Die Hauptstadt, Menasse provides an enjoyable reading experience…« Carsten Otte, taz. die tageszeitung

»He manages to write humorously about Europe’s bureaucratic world without resorting to mockery.« Andrea Pollmeier, Frankfurter Rundschau

»Die Hauptstadt is an outstanding masterpiece, full of knowledge and ideas, politically astute and convincing in literary terms; this book proves that as a concept, major social novels are still a suitable means of conveying substantial questions of our time in an enlightening manner in our so complex world.« Christian Schacherreiter, Oberösterreichische Nachrichten

»Robert Menasse has […] written a gripping mix of clever observations and thriller.’ ‘ […] he masters this craft so effortlessly and brilliantly that Die Hauptstadt can be devoured like a crime novel if required.« Alexander Altmann, Nürnberger Nachrichten

»Once again, Robert Menasse presents himself as a masterful narrator who creates clear-cut images with concise outlines.« ORF

»Writers such as Robert Menasse should be listened to more closely and politicians should at last forge links again with such intellectuals.« Björn Hayer, Spiegel Online

»Menasse’s novel Die Haupstadt (‘The Capital’) is a pleasurable reading experience...« Carsten Otte, SWR2 Zeitgenossen

»Menasse is a storyteller and polemic, a clear thinker on history, and a visionary who, before giving free rein, checks his facts. And he is seductive, lending conviction through the strength of his language.« Anton Thuswalder, Salzburger Nachrichten

Other publications

Ich kann jeder sagen/Everyone can say I (2009)

Sold to:

English world rights (Ariadne), France (Jacqueline Chambon), Bulgaria (Lege Artis)

Don Juan de La Mancha oder Die Erziehung der Lust/Don Juan de la Mancha or an Education in Pleasure (2007)

Sold to:

English world rights (Alma Books/Calder Publications), Spanish world rights (Alianza), France (Verdier), Italy (Scritturapura), Netherlands (Arbeiderspers), Czech Republic (Pre-Media), Slovakia (Kalligram), Hungary (Kalligram), Bulgaria (Lege Artis), Latvia (AGB), Lithuania (Pasvires Pasaulis), Hindi (Vani)

Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle/Expulsion from Hell (2001)

Sold to:

Spanish World Rights (Alianza), Russia (Text), Portugal (Ulisseia), France (Verdier), Netherlands (Arbeiderspers), Norway (Aschehoug), Czech Republic (Academia), Hungary (Ulpius Haz), Bulgaria (Lege Artis), Greece (Polis)