A meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
Orginal title – Un repas en hiver
Translator -Sam Taylor
Source – review copy
Hubert Mingarelli is a French writer ,he left school at 17 joined the navy and saw the world travelling around the Mediterranean and pacific .He took up writing in the late 1980’s and published his first book in 1992 .A meal in winter is his first book to be translated into English .He won the Prix Médicis a major French lit prize in 2003 for an earlier book .
As usual , he gave us what we asked for ,and we left the next morning – Emmerich Bauer and myself ,We went at dawn before the first shootings .That meant missing breakfast ,but also meant not facing Graaf who would be filed with hatred we went over his head .
The three set off after getting the ok
I read this book one evening last November and was struck by it’s sheer power in the fact it is a simple story but with lots of power on the moral nature of man .The book has just five main characters they are three Nazi solders sent by their commander not Lt Graff there intimidate boss , to fetch a runaway Jewish boy / young man and a Pole they meet whilst doing this . The story starts when the three solder are sent out in the deep winter to recapture an escape Jew and deal with him as they see fit .The man has escaped but due to the weather and the place they are ,he hasn’t got to far but far enough for them all to get stuck , and is recaptured by the three .they then decide to take shelter and seek something to eat at the farm house ,then they are joined by a very anti Semitic Pole .This simple meal and what happens during it may change the five men caught in the very deep winter of middle Europe .Each questions the actions .
The Pole seeming unwilling to stop staring at the Jew and his peeled-back lips expressed a sort of satisfaction .Bauer demanded .”what’s got into you ? ”
The Pole ,looking at Bauer ,quickly said a few words before his gaze swung back to the storeroom .And then he spoke in the universal language of Malice ,his head nodding maliciously .
The Pole shows his colours to the three men .
This book is short as I said at 138 pages long and not the biggest hardback ,but for what it lacks in size and length it makes up for in style ,this book is from the pen of a talented writer sparse is the story but deep as well .We see how the soldier did this to escape shooting ,the Jewish boy is almost like a mute witness but at the centre of it all an unnamed young man that is the target of the Pole when he arrives in the narrative .But for the soldier catching him is easier than killing others which is what they had to do .Moral questions are ask by all what forms values like a lot books that maybe focus on the German side of the conflict you see the different values of the men and when faced with someone truly anti Semitic ,they begin to question there own views .I review another book from this time yesterday from Hanna krall I felt these two actually suited being reviewed in consecutive days different styles of writing this sparse to the point no drifting the other drifting and full of the war ,this is just five people .
Do you like sparse narrative books when done well ?