Caryl Phillips, best known as a novelist, was born in St. Kitts and moved to Leeds, England, at just 4 months old.
He started his literary career as a playwright, but has also written for television, radio and the cinema. Phillips won the BBC Giles Cooper Award for Best Radio play of the year with ‘The Wasted Years’ in 1984. He was named the Sunday Times Young Writer of the year in 1992 and was on the Granta list of Best Young British writers in 1993.
Aged 22, Phillips visited his birth island, St. Kitts for the first time. His trip provided inspiration for his novel, ‘The Final Passage.’ In 1995, he was the youngest English tenured professor in the US. During this time he wrote one of his most well known novels, ‘Crossing the River’. This novel won the Commonwealth Writers’ prize, the James Tait Black Memorial prize and was shortlisted for the Booker prize.
We at Caribbean1st have only named a few of Caryl Phillips’ accomplishments, not only has he won a whole host of awards, he has also become a distinguished professor. He has taught at Universities in Sweden, Ghana, Barbados, Singapore, India and is currently a Professor of English at Yale. He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Queen’s College, Oxford, the University where he studied English Literature. As a teacher of creative writing, Phillips feels that it is important for his students to have the opportunity to develop their fiction in a disciplined manner.
Phillips tends to write about experiences of people of the Afircan diaspora in England, the Caribbean and the US. He tackles themes on the African slave trade and his pieces are often concerned with issues of origins, belongings and exclusion. He gives his characters voices, voices that we as Caribbeans can all relate to. His writings span cultures and call across oceans. Phillips tackles cultural issues head on, not just concerning those of African descent. For example his novel ‘Higher Ground’, written in 1989, consists of three narratives linking the lives of a West African slave, a member of the Black Panther movement and a Polish immigrant living in post-war Britain. Caryl Phillips, thank you for your continued input and teaching in literature, we at Caribbean1st admire and salute you.