1872. The pampas of Argentina. China is a young woman eking out an existence in a remote gaucho encampment. After her no-good husband is conscripted into the army, China bolts for freedom, setting off on a wagon journey through the pampas in the company of her new-found friend Liz, a settler from Scotland.
The Adventures of China Iron begins with a moment of lyricism that isn’t any less powerful for being directed at a dog ... China Iron showcases a remarkably fresh vision of life on the 19th-century pampas ... It’s easy to categorize China Iron at first as magical realism, but it’s something else entirely, a historical novel that reminds us, in Cabezón Cámara’s entrancing poetry, how magical and frankly unpleasant it is to live through history ... a masterly subversion of Argentine national identity ... The translation by Iona Macintyre and Fiona Mackintosh is sure-footed, Cabezón Cámara’s lush prose spilling out without hesitation.
The Adventures of China Iron certainly passes the Bechdel test. It focuses on two plucky women who cross the pampas in search of a new way of life ... Cámara gives the classic narrative of macho men corralling the natives and cultivating the vast grasslands a deliberately queer slant ... Brilliantly translated by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre, this is a heartfelt, dreamlike paean to Argentina’s past and what might have been had the pampas been left alone.
The original Martín Fierro focuses on male characters, explicitly excluding women, especially those who are black or indigenous. China Iron inverts this dynamic ... China Iron also acknowledges those who are implicitly excluded, such as gays and gender nonconformists (especially those who are gender queer and indigenous) ... This reinterpretation of Martín Fierro through a feminist, lesbian, postcolonial perspective compels readers to examine critically not only the biases of the myths we celebrate, but also how they seep into our contemporary understandings of nationhood ... Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre worked together to craft a translation that is as engrossing as the original.