Mouthful of Birds: Stories
Oneworld, $29.99 pb, 240 pp, 9781786074560
Despite seven years of expatriate life in Germany, the Argentine Samanta Schweblin’s writerly gaze, like that of Australia’s Peter Carey or Janette Turner Hospital, remains trained upon her homeland: ‘I write from outside, literally and in a literary sense. But always looking toward Argentina.’ Schweblin acknowledges a debt to the fantastic, the genre that, in Tzvetan Todorov’s influential formulation, suspends the reader between belief and disbelief in the supernatural. In Latin America, lo fantástico refers, above all, to a style of literary short story produced in and around Buenos Aires since the 1940s. The influential Anthology of Fantastic Literature (1940), edited by Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Silvina Ocampo, inaugurates the genre, and Julio Cortázar’s work during the 1960s Latin American Literary Boom represents its high-water mark. This ‘river plate’ tradition of the fantastic – a poetics of uncertainty and strangeness that emerged through the confluence of avant-garde aesthetics, psychoanalysis and modernity – nourishes contemporary Argentine writing.