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Alastair Reid obituary

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Essayist who graced the columns of the New Yorker for 40 years, poet, and translator of many Hispanic authors

Alastair Reid, who has died aged 88, was a Scottish writer whose imagination dwelt in the Hispanic world. He was at least as well known for his translations of Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and other Spanish-speaking writers as for his own poetry. Reid was also a superb writer of prose, the larger part of which appeared in the New Yorker, where he was a staff writer for 40 years during the magazine's heyday. Memoirs of his stormy friendship with the writer Robert Graves, chronicles of his life in a village in Spain, and latterly excursions into contemporary Scottish life, among other essays, appeared first in the New Yorker before being collected in books, including Passwords (1964) and Whereabouts (1987).

Reid was born in Whithorn, in Galloway, south-west Scotland. He called it his "personal Eden". His father was a Church of Scotland minister, his mother a doctor. A taste for the itinerant life, to which he would eventually dedicate himself, was acquired from the "tinkers" who came from Ireland to Galloway for seasonal labour. "They always came by our house next to the church. I used to ask my father, 'Where are they going?' And he would say, 'They don't know.'" Seventy-five years later, Reid could still relish his response: "How exciting."

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