By Alastair Reid
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Extra resources for An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose
When I first met Spanish writers, I felt infinitely foolish at being able to utter no more than rudimentary observations, and I burrowed into the books they gave me, occasionally translating a poem, out of nothing more than zest. Translating was something that came to intrude more and more into my life, not so much out of intention as out of reading enthusiasm. But I felt in those first years in Spain that I was growing another self, separate and differently articulate. That experience was liberating, just as my first arrival in the United States had beenliberating in its openness and fluidity, as it Page 16 is to all British people except those who cling excruciatingly to their meticulous, class-ridden origins.
Gravity gives way to gaiety, fatefulness is leavened by a vivid sense of the present. The people in the village we lived in in Spain had a way of standing on their own ground, unperturbed, unafraid, "listening to themselves living," as Gerald Brenan put it. They all seemed to me to be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in one. They enjoyed occupying their own skins. They had achieved human imperviousness. S. Pritchett once wrote of "the Spanish gift for discovering every day how much less of everything, material, intellectual, and spiritual, one can live on"a quality that appealed to me.
Andrews felt like an endless rerun of the programs. In April, the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges came to visit, on his way to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University. Borges was much affected by being in Scotland, although his blindness denied him the sight of it. He would take walks with Jasper or Jeff, talking intently, and recite Scottish ballads to us round the kitchen table. During the week that Borges spent with us, the official census-taker arrived at our household. The British are most scrupulous about the census, and the census-taker sat himself down at the long dining-room table, calling us in one by one to record not only our existences but a dossier of ancestral detail.
An Alastair Reid Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose by Alastair Reid