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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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... and so many things I want to forget. The translation is Forrest Gander’s, in The Essential Neruda. Isla Negra (neither black nor an island, Enrico Mario Santí reminds us in an afterword to AlastairReid’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 ...
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 ...

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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... In rhetoric this figure is called a palindrome.’ But a palindrome – ‘T. Eliot, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad. I’d assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet’ (AlastairReid) – 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 ...

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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... past occupies in our memories the place of another, a past of which we know nothing with certainty – not even that it is false’). But it’s possible that the grammar itself is a bit loose, and AlastairReid’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 ...

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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... es sûr, Ned dort nu?’; and it would be grudging not to salute in passing an English example cited in the Compendium, enterprising if a little short on stamina compared with Perec’s monster, from AlastairReid: ‘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 ...


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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... Society’, is more faithful to its title. Two essays in the first set are concerned with individual 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 ...

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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... Beast with poems that were Marxist Carols for a Santa Claws – who had abolished Christmas. Padilla had to be set free in Cuba sooner or later, and he was. Now he is also Scot-free – working with AlastairReid, 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 ...

Karl Miller Remembered

Neal Ascherson, John Lanchester and Andrew O’Hagan

22 October 2014
... cancer battling me.’Then, and often in his earlier life, we would talk about Scotland. Unlike me, he was schooled in Scotland; like me, he spent almost all his life elsewhere. Unlike the late AlastairReid 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 ...


W.G. Runciman: You had better look out

10 December 1998
... want to be mobbed by the crows, don’t climb to the top of the tower.’ So here is another modest instalment, censored at least as carefully as before. 4 June. Talk with Cambridge labour historian AlastairReid 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 – economically ...

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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... sueña con vagas cosas que no sabe. in that library of the past in which I read the story of that knight. The slow leaves now recall a solemn child who dreams vague things he does not understand. AlastairReid, 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 ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Dirtiest Player Around

9 October 2013
... the Third Reich. McBride didn’t need to take direct orders from his boss because he already understood 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 ...

The Reshuffle and After

Ross McKibbin: Why Brown should Resign

25 May 2006
... was resolute in his attempt to make Labour appear ‘soft’ on crime, immigration etc. In their determination 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 ...

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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... Over the next few years, as he moved to Buenos Aires, di Giovanni co-ordinated the translation of Borges’s poetry into English, using some of the best contemporary poets and translators such as AlastairReid, 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 ...

Liars, Hypocrites and Crybabies

David Runciman: Blair v. Brown

2 November 2006
... consumption. Blair persuaded her that she had no choice but to give something of herself to the public, 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 ...

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