Alastair Reid (1926 -2014) was a poet, prose chronicler, translator, and traveler. Born in Scotland, he came to the United States in the early 1950s, began publishing his poems in The New Yorker in 1951, and for the next fifty-odd years was a traveling correspondent for that magazine. Having lived in both Spain and Latin America for long spells, he was a constant translator of poetry from the Spanish language, in particular the work of Jorge Luis Borges and Pablo Neruda. He published more than forty books, among them two word books for children, Ounce Dice Trice, with drawings by Ben Shahn, and Supposing…, with drawings by Bob Gill, both available from The New York Review Children’s Collection.

You Can Go Home Again

Last year, at the age of seventy-five, Gabriel García Márquez published in Barcelona Vivir para contarla; now it is brought into English as Living to Tell the Tale, in a beautiful translation by Edith Grossman, the first of three projected volumes of memoir. It was thirty-five years earlier, in early June 1967, that Editorial Sudamericana launched a novel by the then unknown Colombian writer, called Cien Años de Soledad. They were sufficiently impressed by the novel to risk a first printing of eight thousand copies. A week or so later, they were reprinting, and I imagine they are still.

When the Era Was an Era

A new book by Mario Vargas Llosa always provokes attention, for there are few novelists alive as dedicated as he is to the possibilities of fiction, in all its moods, modes, and manners. His writing life has been not just steadily productive but constantly inventive. His novels are so skillfully …

Of Heaven and Hell

The Inferno of God is not in need of the splendor of fire. When, at the end of things, Judgment Day resounds on the trumpets and the earth opens and yields up its entrails and nations reconstruct themselves from dust to bow before the unappealable …

Report from an Undeclared War

In late February of this year, just as Colombia was preparing to celebrate his seventieth birthday on March 6, Gabriel García Márquez announced from his house in Cartagena that he would not be present for the occasion. Colombia, he said, “had become an uncomfortable country, uncertain and troubling for a …

Talking Cuba

“To be Cuban is to be born in Cuba. To be Cuban is to go with Cuba everywhere. To be Cuban is to carry Cuba like a persistent memory. We all carry Cuba within like an unheard music, like a rare vision that we know by heart. Cuba is a …

Sudden Death

Ever since it was announced, on July 4, 1988, that the World Cup finals would be played off in the United States this year, the event assumed a curious cast in the attention of the sporting press, as if it were to be a vast sociological experiment, a study in …

Urn Burial

Samaná, Dominican Republic—Although elections crop up in the news these days with the regularity of sporting events, the results we bear away from them reveal little of the often seismic nature of their happening, or the political murk that has accompanied them. This is certainly the case in the Dominican …

Troublemaker

(The last three titles comprise the first three volumes of the Pentagonía, his agony in five parts. The remaining volumes, The Color of Summer and The Assault, have still to appear in English.) Among the Latin American writers who have attracted attention since the Sixties, Reinaldo Arenas has remained somewhat …

Puerta De Golpe, Cuba

My mother would tell me that the whole village fled like a child until it was lost, that the feeling of fleeing hung in the air like incense and shook everyone’s bones until they cried out, that she gradually left it behind, hidden …

Climbing Macchu Picchu

Translators, more than anyone else, tend to become weary of the subject of translation. Enmeshed in it, they balk at discussing its impossibilities. For them, each literary work presents its peculiar problems, all requiring unique solutions, so that for them there can be no theory of translation, only the exacting …

Two Poems by Heberto Padilla

HOUSES I can never avoid, at the most unlikely times, the vision of houses I lived in as a child. Some, I remember, were far from ugly, but I didn’t love them. I wanted to build a box-room, a wooden passageway with deep hiding places …

Three Poems by Heberto Padilla

SELF-PORTRAIT OF THE OTHER Are they shiverings, sicknesses, effusions, or instead these desires that a man at times has to shout aloud? I don’t know. I come back on stage. I walk toward the footlights like yesterday,    sharper than a squirrel, with …

A History of Night

Through the course of generations men brought the night into being. In the beginning were blindness and dream and thorns which gash the bare foot and fear of wolves. We shall never know who fashioned the word for the interval of darkness which …

In Borges’s Labyrinth

Borges has come from Spanish into English in a rather haphazard fashion. His work first appeared piecemeal in the Fifties, a poem here, a story there, until, in 1961, he shared the International Publishers Prize with Samuel Beckett, a recognition that propelled two volumes of his work into English, translated …

Two Poems by Heberto Padilla

JUST BY OPENING YOUR EYES This garden, planted a few feet from the river, served as a shawl, against the raining wind, for this sick owl, cowering in the mud like a saboteur. And that mimosa branch, with the yellow flower, and the hidden …

Four Poems by Jorge Luis Borges

TO THE GERMAN LANGUAGE My destiny is in the Spanish language, the bronze words of Francisco de Quevedo, but in the long, slow progress of the night, different, more intimate musics move me. Some have been handed down to me by blood— voices of Shakespeare, …

Where Can Guillermina Be?

Where can Guillermina be? When my sister invited her and I went out to open the door, the sun came in, the stars came in, two tresses of wheat came in and two inexhaustible eyes. I was fourteen years old, brooding, …