A Meal in Winter

Hubert Mingarelli, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $19.95 (144p) ISBN 978-1-62097-173-4
In Mingarelli’s brief, haunting novel, his first translated into English, three German soldiers—Emmerich, Bauer, and an unnamed narrator—all emotionally damaged by their role in executing Jewish prisoners on behalf of the Third Reich, request permission to search the Polish countryside for outliers. “We explained to him that we would rather do the hunting than the shootings,” the narrator reports of a discussion with their commander. “We told him we didn’t like the shootings.” On patrol in freezing cold the next morning, the soldiers discover a young Jew hiding in an underground warren and begin the slog back to the barracks with him in tow. On the way, they stop at an unused house for a meal of soup, during which a Pole and his dog arrive. The dynamic among the men shifts as the soldiers try to glean the Pole’s intentions and debate whether to release their prisoner or to seal his fate by returning with him to camp. Simple declarative sentences and crystalline, cinematic vignettes accrete to give voice to the soldiers’ own shortcomings and fears about their life-and-death decision. With devastating concision, Mingarelli and his translator, Sam Taylor, carry the moral dilemma to an understated yet stunning conclusion. (July)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2016
Release date: 07/05/2016
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 978-1-62097-174-1
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