Summary and book reviews of A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

A Meal in Winter

A Novel of World War II

by Hubert Mingarelli

A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli X
A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
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  • Published:
    Jul 2016, 144 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

A miniature masterpiece, this is the spare, stunning story of three soldiers who share a meal with their Jewish prisoner and face a chilling choice.

One morning in the dead of winter, during the darkest years of World War II, three German soldiers head out into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders with tracking down and bringing back for execution "one of them" - Jew. Having flushed out a young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose virulent anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere. Before long, the group's sympathies begin to splinter when each man is forced to confront his own conscience as the moral implications of their murderous mission become clear.

Called 'masterly and necessary" by the Times Literary Supplement, A Meal in Winter recalls the claustrophobia of Roman Polanski's The Pianist and Louis Begley's Wartime Lies. A sleeper hit in the United Kingdom, this is the first novel by the award-winning French novelist Hubert Mingarelli to be translated into English.

A MEAL IN WINTER

THEY HAD RUNG the iron gong outside and it was still echoing, at first for real in the courtyard, and then, for a longer time, inside our heads.We would not hear it again. We had to get up straight away. Lieutenant Graaf never had to ring the iron twice. A meagre light came through the frost-covered window. Emmerich was sleeping on his side. Bauer woke him. It was late afternoon, but Emmerich thought it was morning. He sat up on his bed and looked at his boots, seeming not to understand why he'd slept in them all night.

In the meantime, Bauer and I had already put our boots on. Emmerich got up and went to look through the window, but he couldn't see anything because of the frost, so he kept on struggling to disentangle night from day. Bauer explained to him that it was afternoon and Graaf was calling us.

'What, again?' Emmerich groaned. 'What for? So we can freeze to death?

' 'Hurry up,' I told him.

'You're kidding,&#...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Though brief, this is neither a fast, nor easy read. Mingarelli touches on so many inconsistencies within the human psyche, and so much cognitive dissonance. He explores how very treacherous the world is due to longstanding, yet misguided, ideals of masculinity and authority. The story inspires questions as to whether these ideals are outmoded and at odds with a civilized, modern society. The truths Mingarelli writes about are still too relevant for comfort. Read this at risk of Emmerich, Bauer and their unnamed friend haunting you for days, maybe weeks. But read this.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review (664 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. With devastating concision, Mingarelli and his translator, Sam Taylor, carry the moral dilemma to an understated yet stunning conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Over the course of "the strangest meal we ever had in Poland," the narrator and his cohort wrestle with the morality of delivering their captive to camp. The command of tone and voice sustains tension until the very last page of a novel that will long resonate in the reader's conscience.

The Independent on Sunday (UK)

A luminous tale…The most moving book I have read for a long time.

The Times (UK)

This strong and simple story packs a mighty punch.

The Herald (Glasgow)

Beautiful and disturbing, complex and surprising…This is not easy for the reader to handle, but Mingarelli knows what he is doing.

Author Blurb Ian McEwan
The 'banality of evil' finds beautiful, spare expression in this remarkable novella.

Author Blurb Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs
Brilliant, devastating, [and] compelling.

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Beyond the Book

Stanley Milgram's Experiment

Hubert Mingarelli's characters in A Meal in Winter have to dehumanize an entire race of people in order to justify carrying out Hitler's mass genocide during World War II. The narrator of the story even goes so far as to resent the Jews because of the very details that remind him of their humanity – "a piece of embroidery, coloured buttons, a ribbon in the hair." He can't tolerate viewing them as human beings. That and the men's unimaginable nightmares about their horrific tasks notwithstanding, the three Nazi soldiers proceed to carry out their commandant's orders as best they know how.

Stanley MilgramIn the early 1960s, Yale University social psychologist Stanley Milgram, himself the son of Jews that escaped the ...

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