1 minute read

Caryl Phillips Biography

(1958– ), Strange Fruit, Where There Is Darkness, The Final Passage, A State of Independence, Higher Ground

West Indian playwright and novelist, born in St Kitts, West Indies, brought up in Leeds, educated at Queen's College, Oxford. His plays, including Strange Fruit (1981) and Where There Is Darkness (1982), are tense, naturalistic dramas dealing with Caribbean families who have settled in Britain. His novels The Final Passage (1985) and A State of Independence (1986) are more expansive and coolly detached than the plays, focusing on other aspects of the Afro-Caribbean experience both in Britain and in the West Indies. More experimental in style, Higher Ground (1989) explores three different periods of history in the collective experience of Africans, and descendants of Africans. The film script of Playing Away (1987) sets a Brixton cricket team against a Home Counties team, thereby satirizing certain aspects of race relations in Britain. In Cambridge (1991) Phillips evokes a nineteenth-century slave plantation through a travel diary written by a young English-woman, and also a contrasting account by the ironically named slave, Cambridge. Crossing the River (1993) sustains Phillips's literary mission to explore and make sense of the African diaspora, showing the legacy of broken heritages resulting from the slave trade. Composed of four sections across a broad historical and geographical framework, the novel is reminiscent in structure of Higher Ground, though even more complex. His other works include The Wasted Years (1985), a radio play, and The European Tribe (1987), a travel book.

Additional topics

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)