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Schweblin, Samanta

Entry updated 26 December 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1978-    ) Argentinian author active from around 2000, in Germany from 2012; her work typically expresses, along with exilic tensions, an occasionally sweet-tongued toughness in the presentation of self, sometimes in nonfantastic stories where touches of Ray Bradbury's ambient sense of the horrific can be detected. But more often the abysses of the world are depicted with a deadpan clarity reminiscent of the work of Franz Kafka or – especially when the oneiric solitudinousness of the Argentinian pampas unnamably but palpably infuses her work – Silvina Ocampo. Several of the tales assembled in Pájaros en la boca y otros cuentos ["Birds in the Mouth and Other Stories"] (coll 2009; trans Megan McDowell as Mouthful of Birds 2019) and Siete casas vacias (coll 2015; trans Megan McDowell as Seven Empty Houses 2022) might be described as Absurdist SF.

Two of Schweblin's novels are of sf interest. In Distancia de rescate ["Rescue Distance"] (2014; trans Megan McDowell as Fever Dream 2017), a toxic Pandemic of pesticides (see Ecology; Pollution) irradiates a rural region in an unnamed country which resembles Argentina, threatening to kill a small child whose "spirit" is Equipoisally saved through Identity Transfer into another body; as the narrative becomes increasingly surreal, and the "rescue distance" between a mother and her child unravels as death closes in, a sense that the planet itself is wounded darkens the tale, whose jagged darkenings of affect are conveyed with terrorized smoothness. Set in various locations across a Near Future Earth, Kentukis (2018; trans Megan McDowell as Little Eyes 2020) focuses on the eponymous device, a remote-controlled toy-like contrivance, usually in the shape of a cute animal, through which a user's consciousness can be implanted in order vicariously to engage in the "toy"-owner's life. The thrill and danger of this lies in the fact that owners cannot determine who inhabits their kentuki which, unless it is constantly catered to will, like a tamagotchi toy, perish. The "Botimals" in Adam Levin's slightly more recent Bubblegum (2020) interact very similarly. The patterns of Communication between figure and ground in Fever Dream are perhaps more complexly ambivalent (see Horror in SF; see again Identity Transfer), though the kentuki-dominated world of Little Eyes does still retain some safe spaces for human intimacy in an otherwise commodified Media Landscape. [JC]

Samanta Schweblin

born Buenos Aires, Argentina: 1978

works (selected)

  • Distancia de rescate ["Rescue Distance"] (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Literatura Random House, 2014) [binding unknown/]
    • Fever Dream (London: Oneworld, 2017) [trans by Megan McDowell of the above: hb/Rachel Willey from Henry Stull]
  • Kentukis (Barcelona, Spain: Literatura Random House, 2018) [binding unknown/]
    • Little Eyes (London: Oneworld, 2020) [rev: trans by Megan McDowell of the above: hb/Shutterstock]

collections and stories


previous versions of this entry

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