Cámara gives the classic narrative of macho men corralling the natives and cultivating the vast grasslands a deliberately queer slant. The two women choose love over violence, revelling in energetic sex together. In the final part of the novel, the three companions join the Iñchiñ tribe. For China, the might of the British Empire recedes in her imagination to be replaced by the beauty of an “unencumbered” nomadic existence where different languages intermingle, they are free to move with nature’s rhythms and love remains fluid and unshackled. 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.
Cámara’s narration of China’s life story is in parts akin to the most fanciful episodes of Tom Jones or Tristram Shandy, where questions of narrative reliability run rampage. “It’s difficult to know what you remember, is it what actually happened? Or is it the story that you’ve told and retold and polished like a gemstone over the course of years, like something that has lustre but is as lifeless as a stone?” asks China. We can’t know to which type her storytelling adheres, though it certainly does not lack vitality. It is conversational (“I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but…”) and beautifully wrought.