Welcome to the Capital City


As the 50th anniversary of the European Commission approaches, a big celebration is about to be held. European clerks decide that the best venue for the jubilee is the former extermination camp in Auschwitz. Inspector Brunfaut, on the other hand, has other things to worry about: investigation of the murder at the Brussels Atlas Hotel has been stopped by his superiors, which means he has to continue at his own peril. And what has the pig, freely roaming the streets of Brussels, got to do with all this? Such is the brief outline of the book entitled The Capital City, introduced at the book fair by its Austrian writer Robert Menasse.

The author has set his novel in Brussels, Europe's political metropolis, where the continent's fate is decided. But what is it really like to live and work there? "I wrote this book because I wanted to find out how things work in a city like this. From historical perspective, a city where decisions are taken that affect the entire continent is a new thing. My thinking was - how can this work? And can it work at all? To find out, I moved there. This was the only way for me to study something as abstract as the European Union from up close," Robert Menasse said during a debate with book fair visitors. He ended up spending six years in Brussels. "During that time I met politicians, members of the European Commission, as well as normal people who work there. That gave me the opportunity to understand the system as a whole." He decided to share his findings with the readers in the form of a novel. "I found out that for many people, the European Union, European Commission and the entire Brussels administration is incomprehensible and impossible to grasp. To bring it closer to them, I chose the form of a novel. I wanted to give all those things a human face because there are people behind all of it," he explained. He has since been proved right not only by millions of readers, but also by the German Booksellers' Award.

The book ends with the words "to be continued". What is that supposed to mean? "What I really meant was that today nobody knows what will happen with Europe. Will nationalism triumph? Will we again look at burning ruins of cities and start from scratch? Everything is possible. And as I write in my book, the story is 'to be continued'." With this answer, which leads to many more questions, Robert Menasse concluded his meeting with book fair visitors.