Cover image for Mouthful of birds : stories
Mouthful of birds : stories
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 2019.

Physical Description:
228 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in Spanish and in somewhat different format as Pájaros en la boca by Random House Mondadori in 2010."
Headlights -- Preserves -- Butterflies -- Mouthful of birds -- Santa Claus sleeps at our house -- Digger -- Irman -- Test -- Toward happy civilization -- Olingiris -- My brother Walter -- Merman -- Rage of pestilence -- Heads against concrete -- Size of things -- Underground -- Slowing down -- On the steppe -- A great effort -- Heavy suitcase of Benavides.
Schweblin's stories have the feel of a sleepless night, where every shadow and bump in the dark take on huge implications; they leave your pulse racing and the line between the real and the strange blurring.

In the tradition of Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor, Schweblin's stories move on the boundary between the real and the fantastic. This selection, chosen by the author, is an indispensable piece of contemporary Argentine literature.
Added Author:
Language Note:
Translated from the Spanish.


Material Type
Call Number
Book Fiction Schwe
Book Fiction Schwe
Book Fiction Schwe

On Order



"Superb" -- Vogue

"What makes Schweblin so startling as a writer, however, what makes her rare and important, is that she is impelled not by mere talent or ambition but by vision." -- New York Times

A powerful, eerily unsettling story collection from a major international literary star.

The brilliant stories in Mouthful of Birds burrow their way into your psyche and don't let go. Samanta Schweblin haunts and mesmerizes in this extraordinary collection featuring women on the edge, men turned upside down, the natural world at odds with reality. We think life is one way, but often, it's not -- our expectations for how people act, love, fear can all be upended. Each character in Mouthful of Birds must contend with the unexpected, whether a family coming apart at the seams or a child transforming or a ghostly hellscape or a murder.

Schweblin's stories have the feel of a sleepless night, where every shadow and bump in the dark take on huge implications, leaving your pulse racing, and the line between the real and the strange blurs.

Author Notes

Samanta Schweblin is the author of the novel, Fever Dream , a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize and her first book translated into English. She was chosen as one of the twenty-two best writers in Spanish under the age of 35 by Granta and is on the Bogotá39-2017 list. Her stories in Spanish have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Juan Rulfo Story Prize, and in English have appeared in The New Yorker , Harper's , and elsewhere. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. Originally from Buenos Aires, she lives in Berlin. Megan McDowell has translated books by many contemporary South American and Spanish authors, and her translations have been published in The New Yorker , Harper's , The Paris Review , McSweeney's , Words Without Borders , and Vice, among other publications. She lives in Chile.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Schweblin (Fever Dream) once again deploys a heavy dose of nightmare fuel in this frightening, addictive collection. In "Headlights," Felicity, a just-married woman whose husband has abandoned her by the side of the road, hears and senses an approaching swarm of jilted women in the pitch black fields around her ("The laughter is closer now; it completely drowns out the crying"). "Preserves" is about a married couple expecting their first child and deciding to alter nature's course. In the title story, two parents try to figure out what to do about their young daughter, who has started eating live birds. In "Underground," the children in a small mining town dig a massive hole and suddenly disappear, and when their parents go looking for them, they find the hole filled in-and empty when they dig it up again. "The Heavy Suitcase of Benavides" follows a man who thinks that he has killed his wife and stuffed her in a suitcase. When he visits his doctor to confess, his doctor responds to the news unexpectedly, leading to a startling ending. Schweblin has a knack for leaving things unsaid: by zeroing in on her characters and settings to an uncomfortably close degree and only hinting at what's at the edges of the perspective, she achieves a constant sense of dread. Schweblin's stories are canny, provocative, and profoundly unsettling. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

Schweblin's intense collection, following her absorbing novel, Fever Dream (2017), blends the everyday and the surreal, exploring internal currents, domesticity, and human connection. Her narrators bring the different perspectives of age and gender. In the memorable title tale, a father is shocked to discover that his daughter consumes small birds. Things grow more complicated when she abruptly moves in, forcing him to fully confront this unusual behavior. In My Brother Walter, a brother's depression is a source of good fortune for surrounding family and friends. Santa Claus Sleeps in the House follows the breakdown of a husband and wife through the eyes of their child. Other stories explore the various twists in characters' lives and the peculiar worlds they inhabit. Heads of Concrete portrays a successful painter who finds inspiration in a macabre method. An unexpected encounter in The Merman induces a woman to briefly question the path of and fragmented relationships in her life. These 20 tales have a visceral effect as Schweblin navigates the extremes of her characters' actions and thoughts, both healing and destructive.--Leah Strauss Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Before Schweblin's debut novel, Fever Dreams, was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize, the Buenos Aires-born, Berlin-based author was grabbing honors like the Juan Rulfo Story Prize for her short stories. Here's a collection that reveals why. Take the first story, "Headlights," about brides abandoned on a highway by their new husbands when they get out to use the bathroom. There are hundreds of forlorn brides at this spot, including a nasty older woman impatient with their moaning; the atmosphere is nightmarish, and the ending is a slug in the gut. In other stories, a father bemoans a daughter who has taken to eating live birds, a teenager with a temper grows up to become an esteemed painter of heads being smashed into concrete, and a vacationer who's rented a remote shore house finds a man who insists he's been hired to dig a hole in the yard. Women's subjugation, our insatiable (perhaps bestial) urges, art as mediation, how little we control-Schweblin ponders weighty issues while spooking her readers. VERDICT Surreal, disturbing, and decidedly original, these pieces aren't easy reading but will enthrall literati and sophisticated readers of fantasy and horror. [See Prepub Alert 7/16/18.] © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Headlightsp. 1
Preservesp. 15
Butterfliesp. 25
Mouthful of Birdsp. 29
Santa Claus Sleeps at Our Housep. 45
The Diggerp. 53
Irmanp. 61
The Testp. 75
Toward Happy Civilizationp. 83
Olingirisp. 101
My Brother Walterp. 117
The Mermanp. 123
Rage of Pestilencep. 131
Heads Against Concretep. 137
The Size of Thingsp. 153
Undergroundp. 165
Slowing Downp. 173
On the Steppep. 177
A Great Effortp. 189
The Heavy Suitcase of Benavidesp. 201