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In a Tuft of Thistle

Robert Crawford: Borges is Coming, 16 December 2021

Borges and Me: An Encounter 
by Jay Parini.
Canongate, 299 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 83885 022 7
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... Borges’s visit to St Andrews as a coming to terms with his early lost love.The New Yorker writer Alastair Reid, a Scot who was one of Borges’s translators and with whom Borges stayed in St Andrews, mentions the visit at least twice. Reid’s essay ‘Borges and Neruda’ describes how Borges ‘took walks with my ...

Dressed as an Admiral

Michael Wood: Neruda’s Hocus Pocus, 2 September 2004

by Pablo Neruda, translated by Hardie St Martin.
Souvenir, 370 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 9780285648111
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Isla Negra: A Bilingual Edition 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Alastair Reid.
Souvenir, 416 pp., £14.99, June 2004, 0 285 64913 2
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The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems 
edited by Mark Eisner.
City Lights, 199 pp., $16.95, April 2004, 0 87286 428 6
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... Neruda. Isla Negra (neither black nor an island, Enrico Mario Santí reminds us in an afterword to Alastair Reid’s translation) is the name of the village where Neruda bought a house in 1939, and where he spent much of his writing time. The book named for the village was first published in five brief volumes in 1964, and the full title is Memorial de ...

Solitude and Multitude

Tony Gould, 13 February 1992

Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence 
by Luis Poirot, translated by Alastair Reid.
Norton, 185 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 393 02770 8
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Adios, Poeta 
by Jorge Edwards.
Tusquets Editores, 335 pp., ptas 1,800, November 1990, 84 7223 191 7
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... According to his friend from a younger generation, the Chilean writer and diplomat Jorge Edwards, the most enigmatic thing about Pablo Neruda was the way he could switch in one bound, so to speak, from solitude to sociability. This poet of the sea and of lonely places was also one of the most gregarious people Edwards has ever known. Neruda discusses the contrasting attractions of ‘solitude and multitude’ in his Memoirs:    The human crowd has been the lesson of my life ...

Seeing double

Patrick Hughes, 7 May 1987

The Arcimboldo Effect 
by Pontus Hulten.
Thames and Hudson, 402 pp., £32, May 1987, 0 500 27471 1
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... putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet’ (Alastair Reid) – reads the same frontwards or backwards. Upside-downs read differently depending on which way up they are. Hammond and Hughes call this a metathesis: ‘A raven is like a writing desk because it bodes ill for owed bills’ (James ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo, 29 April 1999

Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... in the Compendium, enterprising if a little short on stamina compared with Perec’s monster, from Alastair Reid: ‘T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: “Gnat-dirt upset on drab pot toilet.” ’ The Oulipo has been going about its palindromic and associated verbal business for almost forty years, having ...


V.G. Kiernan, 4 August 1983

The Working Class in Modern British History: Essays in Honour of Henry Pelling 
edited by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 315 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 521 23444 1
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The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-60 
edited by James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £16, November 1982, 0 333 32971 6
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Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of 19th-Century Working Class Autobiography 
by David Vincent.
Methuen, 221 pp., £4.95, December 1982, 0 416 34670 7
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... politicians, one seeking to shepherd labour towards the left, the other towards the right. Fred Reid writes of Keir Hardie as newspaper editor, convinced that ‘he, almost alone, stood firm for socialism’ in the ILP, and determined therefore to keep its organ, the Labour Leader, under his private control. Its style was coloured by the ‘new ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan, 23 October 2014

... me, he was schooled in Scotland; like me, he spent almost all his life elsewhere. Unlike the late Alastair Reid and so many other Scottish writers, Karl was not a son of the manse. He was the love-child of two obstinately laic and sceptical individuals, and – although all his work was lit up by his fascination with the dualism inherent in the Calvinist ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... had to be set free in Cuba sooner or later, and he was. Now he is also Scot-free – working with Alastair Reid, formerly from the East Neuk of Fife. Padilla is from Pinar del Rio, the pinewood by the river, in Western Cuba: tobacco country. In Legacies the kilt matches the Havana wrapper perfectly. Here are some samples. Ladies first. ‘Advice to a ...


W.G. Runciman: You had better look out, 10 December 1998

... instalment, censored at least as carefully as before. 4 June. Talk with Cambridge labour historian Alastair Reid about Scottish devolution. Alastair, a Clydesider born and bred, says he has always been conscious of how deeply and irreconcilably the Scots are divided among themselves ...

Productive Mischief

Michael Wood: Borges and Borges and I, 4 February 1999

Collected Fictions 
by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley.
Allen Lane, 565 pp., £20, January 1999, 0 14 028680 2
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... not even that it is false’). But it’s possible that the grammar itself is a bit loose, and Alastair Reid’s wording (also 1962) makes more sense to me: ‘Now, in all memories, a fictitious past occupies the place of any other. We know nothing about it with any certainty, not even that it is false.’ Either: we don’t know enough about our real ...

The Unreachable Real

Michael Wood: Borges, 8 July 2010

The Sonnets 
by Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Stephen Kessler.
Penguin, 311 pp., $18, March 2010, 978 0 14 310601 2
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Poems of the Night 
by Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Efraín Kristal.
Penguin, 200 pp., $17, March 2010, 978 0 14 310600 5
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... knight. The slow leaves now recall a solemn child who dreams vague things he does not understand. Alastair Reid, in his translation, reverses the grammar and makes the child the object rather than the subject of the sentence, which also works, but loses the delicacy in the idea of the child turning the slow pages. Volver is not the usual verb for this ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Dirtiest Player Around, 10 October 2013

... the violence that Brown wished on his enemies. The underling was working towards the Führer. Alastair Campbell, speaking on Andrew Neil’s Daily Politics, thinks the proper analogy is with football. McBride was a rogue player so set on mindless aggression that he fouled people all over the pitch. He was like a footballer who was happy to kick his own ...

The Reshuffle and After

Ross McKibbin: Why Brown should Resign, 25 May 2006

... not to be ‘outflanked’ on the right Blair and Straw went with him all the way. Since Alastair Campbell’s genius did not go as far as devising a strategy to deal with the tabloid press, New Labour simply accepted the tabloid view of the electorate at face value and Blair has seemed increasingly happy with that. Thus any policy thought to be ...

Don’t abandon me

Colm Tóibín: Borges and the Maids, 11 May 2006

Borges: A Life 
by Edwin Williamson.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, August 2005, 0 14 024657 6
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... Borges’s poetry into English, using some of the best contemporary poets and translators such as Alastair Reid, Richard Wilbur and John Hollander. He also worked with Borges on translating his prose works into English, and coaxed him into producing new stories and a long autobiographical piece for the New Yorker. All of this is vividly described in The ...

Liars, Hypocrites and Crybabies

David Runciman: Blair v. Brown, 2 November 2006

... and what she eventually gave was a mendacious little speech composed for her with the help of Alastair Campbell, in which she spoke about how she felt as a queen and as a grandmother. No one believed she really meant it, but that didn’t matter; she got through by showing she wasn’t above sharing, and that was enough. Still, she was bested throughout ...

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