Archive for the ‘Caryl Phillips’ Category

“The Narrative Is Not Written in Stone”

Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Conversation with Caryl Phillips, Part II

Bastian Balthazar Becker

(This is the second half of an extended interview with Caryl Phillips. For Part I of the interview, click here.)

Bastian Balthazar Becker: Pico Iyer has called you a “connoisseur of displacement.”[1] Several of the essays in Color Me English, most of all “Belonging in Israel,” seem to imply that the feeling of displacement, especially if it is historical, is produced, determined, and altered by the ways in which individuals and groups situate themselves within greater narratives of origin. You do point out in several of your works that the actual going back to the geographical point of origin does little to alleviate the pain of exile. The feeling of “wholeness” seems to be out of reach. Can trauma be healed if we change the narrative?

Caryl Phillips: You’re right. I’ve seen too many examples of people trying to go to a place to become whole. Instead, they realize that they have just complicated the issue and made it worse. You can adjust the narrative to fit. The narrative is not written in stone. There is no master narrative that you have to follow, unless you have to believe in a particularly rigid form of some belief system, of some faith. For me there is no master narrative. But people seem to subscribe to these master narratives which are set up to include some people and exclude others. I would argue that instead of giving up your life, giving up your job, traveling across waters or land, one could just adjust the narrative. And I think that is what writers do. They just change the narrative. Make it slightly less hostile. (more…)

“The Narrative Is Not Written in Stone”

Friday, 16 December 2011

A Conversation with Caryl Phillips, Part I

Bastian Balthazar Becker

“Belonging is a contested state. Home is a place riddled with vexing questions,” [1]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…)