Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize, “China Iron” showcases a remarkably fresh vision of life on the 19th-century pampas. “The earth shook itself up, sweeping skywards in spirals,” Cabezón Cámara writes. In other words: a stampede. During a flood, we see cows somersaulting in a river that moves “with a momentum inseparable from drowning.” But from its first line the novel is breathtakingly preoccupied with light, the way it animates a beautiful and cannibalistic landscape: “It became dazzling with the rains, reawakened. … No longer flat, it heaved with grain, tents, Indians on the move, white women escaping from captivity, horses swimming with their gaucho riders still astride, while all around the dorado fish darted like lightning into the depths. … And in each fragment of that river that was devouring its own banks, a bit of sky was reflected.”

An astoundingly brilliant re-imagining of the Martín Ferro epic poem by Hernández, (who even gets a cameo role in the story) this book was one of my unexpected favourite reads of 2021. There are no adjectives to describe just how well Mackintosh and Macintyre have translated all the nuances of light and dialogue in Cabezón Cámara’s original text. Highly recommended.

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