Camara’s rambunctious retelling of the old Gauco epic ‘Martin Fierro’, reflects the madcap exuberance of an Argentina which was just beginning to forge its path in the world 50 years after gaining independence, an Argentina of grouchy gauchos, of endless expanses and limitless possibilities, an Argentina re-imagined via Cámara’s incorrigible imagination, where all of the myths are upended beneath the sweltering skies of he pampas.
The protagonist for the novel, who names herself ‘China Iron’ manages to escape from the tedium of domesticity and her husband when she absconds for a journey with the mysterious Scottish woman Liz. The journey acts as a voyage of self-discovery, as China Iron is finally able to appreciate the beauty of the Argentinian wilderness, from its flora and fauna to the richness of the cultures which exist within in. Along the way they meet up with the quietly sensitive gaucho Rosario and a bevy of other characters from the macho landowner Hernandez to China Iron’s own husband Martin Fierro, who has been transformed from a somewhat repugnant drunkard into a poet driven mad by the death of his lover. Rosario develops a relationship with Liz, which also leads to her sexual reawakening, indeed the second half to the novel acts as a celebration of lasciviousness as we are treated to an orgy and multiple love affairs.
The novel also explores the racism and prejudices inherent in Argentine society, whether it be the racism which was directed towards the blacks and the native population by the settlers or the snobbery directed at the peasants and gauchos by the upper classes. ‘The Adventures of China Iron’ is a brilliant and fun retelling of a classic Argentina poem, which not only celebrates Argentina’s considerable natural beauty but also the complexity of its nascent culture and the violence which was endemic to large parts of the country.