Alastair Reid

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This article is about the poet and scholar. For the British television director, see Alastair Reid (director).
Not to be confused with Alex Reid (disambiguation).

Alastair Reid (22 March 1926 – 21 September 2014) was a poet and a scholar of South American literature from Galloway in Scotland. He was known for his lighthearted style of poems and for his translations of South American poets Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda. Although he was known for translations, his own poems had gained notice during his lifetime. He had lived in Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Morocco, throughout Latin America, and in the United States, where he was employed by The New Yorker magazine.

In 1984, in an interview for the Wall Street Journal, Reid admitted fabricating many details of his reporting from Spain for the New Yorker, including inventing places and ascribing statements to composite characters. He said these inventions were an attempt to present "a larger truth, of which facts form a part."[1] In his book, Whereabouts, Reid counters this article with the following:

These pieces were at the center of a curious storm that blew up in the American press during June of 1984. A year or so before, I had addressed a seminar at Yale University on the wavering line between fact and fiction, using examples from various writers, Borges among them, and from my own work. A student from the seminar went on to become a reporter and published a piece in the Wall Street Journal that charged me with having made a practice of distorting facts, quoting the cases I had cited in the seminar. Many newspaper editorials took up the story as though it were fact, and used it to wag pious fingers at the New Yorker. A number of columnists reproved me for writing about an "imaginary" Spanish village, a charge that would have delighted the flesh-and-blood inhabitants.... Not a single one of my critics, as far as I could judge, had gone back to read the pieces in question.

He published more than forty books, including Ounce Dice Trice, a book of word-play for children (illustrated by Ben Shahn), and two selections from his works: Outside In: Selected Prose and Inside Out: Selected Poetry and Translations (both 2008).[2]

Reid died on 21 September 2014, aged 88.[3]


  1. ^ Maureen Dowd (19 June 1984). "A WRITER FOR THE NEW YORKER SAYS HE CREATED COMPOSITES IN REPORTS". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Ounce Dice Trice". New York Review Books. Retrieved 2012-05-03. 
  3. ^ "Alastair Reid in the New Yorker". New Yorker. 


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