Mouthful of Birds – Samanta Schweblin

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Weird fiction. We need to talk about it… Our name is indeed the New “Gothic” Review, but one thing we don’t talk about enough is how much the Weird and the Gothic overlap. (PS! They definitely overlap in terms of what we are looking for in submissions; so please send us your Weird short stories!)

Both genres are deeply rooted in the uncanny and the unexplainable, and while others may disagree, it’s my feeling that the very best elements of the Gothic genre are not only be kept alive in but are driving the growing popularity in Weird fiction.

Samanta Schweblin’s “Mouthful of Birds” (published in English in 2017) is a collection of short stories that blend the Gothic and the a Weird. Schweblin is an Argentinian author, living in Berlin. Let me just say as an aside, if you love Gothic/ Weird fiction, especially stories that are modern, imaginative, and dreamlike, you HAVE to read more Argentinian authors. (Thinking about doing a list of recs soon. I’m not an expert, just a fan, so I too would welcome some recommendations.)

The stories in Mouthful of Birds range from being just a touch off to being full blown fever dreams. It feels like everything gets a “Kafka-esque” description these days, but these stories have earned it. In the same way that Gregor Sampson’s family accepts that young Gregor is simply a bug now, our protagonist father in the title story “Mouthful of Birds” must accept that his daughter simply eats live birds now. (In other words, the way we’ve all approached 2020).

The writing is refined and although the plot can get wonky, the prose are clear, beautiful, and minimal. Schweblin’s approach to these stories is to dial the strangeness up to 11 on one detail and keep everything else around it exceedingly normal. There’s also a beautiful conversation that forms throughout many of the stories about the horrors, doubts, and strangeness of being a parent.

Some standout stories in this collection are “Butterflies,” “Mouthful of Birds,” “Toward Happy Civilization,” “Preserves,” and “Merman.”

Story by The Editors