The Capital

Liveright: Norton. Jun. 2019. 416p. ISBN 9781631495717. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631495724. F
Out of nowhere, a pig appears in central Brussels, and thus begins this bureaucratic satire about the European Union. Fenia Xenopoulou, a director in the European Commission’s Department of Culture looking to transfer to a department with more importance, sees her chance when the office is tasked with developing an idea to improve the commission’s image for its 50th anniversary. She assigns colleague Martin Susman to draft something promoting the commission’s work. His idea, a rededication to the organization’s original vision with a focus on Auschwitz, replete with concentration camp survivors, stirs a hornet’s nest of political intrigue and nationalistic turmoil. Intersecting threads of this panoramic tale involve the cover-up of a mysterious murder in a Brussels hotel, an economics professor delivering a talk to a think tank on the need for a new European capital—to be built at Auschwitz—and, of course, the elusive pig.
VERDICT The tension between a supranational European vision and a rising tide of nationalism is at the center of this trenchant political satire. Given that increasing nationalism is not a strictly European phenomenon, this German Book Prize winner may well find an audience on this side of the Atlantic. [See Prepub Alert, 12/3/18.]

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