In September 2014, while reading an Italian newspaper, Rosella Postorino found a brief article about Margot Wölk, Hitler’s last living food taster. She was 96 years old and it was the first time she had confessed her experience; Margot had kept it a secret her whole life. Postorino contacted her to request a meeting, but unfortunately Margot died before receiving her letter.
“She described the tasters’ meals as very distressing moments, as a real nightmare, but she also remembered how delicious and fresh the food was. I felt that this contradiction represented the contradiction of her role: she was a victim being forced to risk life and limb three times a day just by eating, but she was also guilty, because she was working for Hitler, an inhuman, evil person,” Postorino said.
“Her story had already become my obsession and I thought that the only way to understand why it obsessed me was to write a novel loosely based on Frau Wölk’s experience. My question was: What would I have done if I had been in her shoes?”
That novel is AT THE WOLF’S TABLE, translated from Italian by Leah Janeczko, and it’s today’s featured Maximum Shelf Awareness pick.
AT THE WOLF’S TABLE explores difficult questions and offers no easy answers: When does survival become an act of guilt? Do we bear responsibility toward those we know, or only those we love? Is it ever acceptable to support an evil regime? And is having no choice—or few choices—a justification for any action?
“Postorino’s narrative does justice to the complex nature of wartime, complicity and the consequences of breaking bread with (and for) the enemy.” — Shelf Awareness