[Caribbean Literature]

A Brief Biography of Caryl Phillips

David P. Lichtenstein '99, Brown University, Contributing Editor, Caribbean Web

The Contemporary Authors confirms his rootlessness, listing three homes in three different countries under the would-be simple heading of "addresses". Caryl Phillips's life (and work), as he admits, in some ways has been defined by the water that separates England from the West Indies, North America from Africa. Born in St. Kitts on March 13, 1958, he moved to England after just one year. There he took an honors B.A. at Oxford and began his blossoming writing career. He has since taken up a home in Amherst as well, where he serves as writer in residence. Phillips' talent has been recognized not just in the awards and fellowships he has received, but also in his recent appointment to the post of chief editor of the Faber and Faber Caribbean writers' series.

Phillips' writing, like that of many West Indian writers, reflects the dualities inherent in his life. But he approaches it uniquely, playing with multiple perspectives to explore not only the challenges of dealing with such dichotomies of race and heritage in the present, but also to investigate how they were created in the first place. Phillips goes beyond presenting the confused identities of his characters, as he frequently juxtaposes their personal histories (as in Cambridge) in order to call into question the process by which these stories became what we now know as "history". Further, he draws links between all sorts of dispossessed, marginal groups, such as Jews during the Holocaust or even Victorian women, to make analogies for the West Indian situation. Thus Caryl Phillips' work, while starting in the Caribbean perhaps, in the end encompasses much of the world, a world which he must in some way draw together in order to make his own identity whole.


Contemporary Authors. Edited by Donna Olendorf. Detroit: Gale Publishing, 1994, Volume 141.

[Caribbean] [Caryl Phillips] Works