A Conversation with Caryl Phillips, Part I
Bastian Balthazar Becker
“Belonging is a contested state. Home is a place riddled with vexing questions,” Caryl Phillips claimed in A New World Order (2001). These thoughts encapsulate the core of Phillips’s oeuvre. In the course of his extraordinary career, Phillips, who was born on St. Kitts, raised in Leeds, and educated at Oxford, has published nine novels, five works of non-fiction, and numerous plays for both the stage and the screen. He has received the 2004 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for A Distant Shore, the 2006 Pen/Beyond the Margins Prize for Dancing in the Dark, and his novel Crossing the River was shortlisted for the 1993 Man Booker Prize. Although the subjects of his books range widely in terms of time and space, the themes of displacement, migration, and journey run like a thread through his work.
I met Caryl Phillips on 20 June 2011 to discuss the publication of his latest collection of essays, titled Color Me English. The interview took place in Midtown Manhattan, in Phillips’s apartment that overlooks Central Park. As attested by other scholars who have interviewed him over the years, Phillips’s personal courtesy and generosity, coupled with the depth and unusual candor of his thoughts, make him a rare interviewee. (more…)