Bastian Balthazar Becker
Caryl Phillips, Color Me English: Migration and Belonging Before and After 9/11 (New York: New Press, 2011); 339 pages; ISBN 978-1-59558-650-6 (paper).
Called a “chronicler of displacement and precarious belonging”  by critics, Caryl Phillips—born on St. Kitts, raised in Leeds, and educated at Oxford—moved to the United States in the early 1990s and currently lives in New York City and teaches at Yale University. His literary oeuvre, which primarily consists of ten novels, the latest being In the Falling Snow (2009), has indeed dealt with notions of home and displacement for the past three decades.
In his collection of essays Color Me English, Phillips reflects on the style of his fiction. “I like to hide in the wings and turn the stage over to my characters,” he writes, “an occasional whispered prompt is all that I permit myself” (177). Anxious not to judge the protagonists of his novels, Phillips renders his personal commentary invisible. It is this elusiveness of his authorial voice, which has traditionally prompted readers of Phillips’s novels to search for his more explicit statements elsewhere. Phillips’s critical essays, his reviews of other writers’ works, and the interviews he has granted over the years have always served as a supplement to his fictional texts. (more…)