The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster

The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster


‘Thoughtful, eloquent and beguiling.’ Richard Davenport-Hines, The Oldie

‘…he impresses on the page a reverence, an obsession, and eulogises about these tantalisingly high-riding creatures, as month by month he chases, follows, yearns for and details the behaviour of them with a chest-aching rawness and accuracy.’ Kirsteen McNish, Caught by the River


Swifts live in perpetual summer. They inhabit the air like nothing on the planet. They watched the continents shuffle to their present places and the mammals evolve. They are not ours, though we like to claim them. They defy all our categories and present no passports as they surf the winds across the world, sleeping in the high thin air, their wings controlled by an alert half-brain.

Common swifts – a numerous but profoundly un-common bird – are Charles Foster’s joy and obsession. The euphoria of their springtime arrival gives way to such painful bereavement when they depart that he tries to stay with them – manically, lyrically, scientifically – as they travel, catching up with them in Mozambique, over the cliff-tops of southern Spain, and as they mingle with worshippers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Fiercely rejecting the idea that swifts are ‘just’ birds – indeed that anything is ‘just’ anything – The Screaming Sky is a radical engagement with the infinite complexity of a species. It steps back, looks to the skies, and stands in awe of these magnificent birds.


Charles Foster is a writer, philosopher, and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford. He is the author of many books, including the ground-breaking Being a Beast, which is a New York Times Bestseller, was long-listed for the Baillie Gifford and Wainwright Prizes, won an IgNobel Prize and the Deux Million d’Amis prize, and is the subject of a forthcoming feature film. He lives in Oxford and a remote part of the southern Peloponnese.



Size: 155 × 25 × 230 mm

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