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Its Own Dark Styx

Marina Warner

20 March 1997
The Nature of Blood 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 224 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19073 1
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... of ourselves; and from A State of Independence his second novel (1986), to The Nature of Blood, Caryl Phillips, too, has been scrying for glimpses of troubled histories. The Nature of Blood opens in a Displaced Persons camp in Cyprus after the Second World War, where the British are holding Jews before releasing them in quotas to travel to Palestine; a ...

Answering back

James Campbell

11 July 1991
The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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Cambridge 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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Lucy 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... its evidence no one is going to accuse David Dabydeen of an ‘assault on de Oxford dictionary’. Caryl Phillips, in his previous novel Higher Ground (1989), made efforts of a certain sort to tap the power of the ‘barbaric, broken utterance’ and turn it to harmonious effect. Higher Ground was a composite of three novellas, set in slave-trade ...

Facing it

Nicholas Lezard

23 September 1993
Crossing the River 
by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 233 pp., £15.99, May 1993, 0 7475 1497 6
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... In The Wasted Years, Caryl Phillips’s 1984 radio play, the young Solly Daniels writes a note to a girl asking her out: ‘Dear Jenny, I know that I don’t know you very well so please forgive me for just writing to you like this.’ ‘Where,’ asks the girl, ‘did he learn to write like that?’ That question resonates ...

The Pink Hotel

Wayne Koestenbaum

3 April 1997
The Last Thing He Wanted 
by Joan Didion.
Flamingo, 227 pp., £15.99, January 1997, 0 00 224080 7
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... began this feuilleton in a hotel room, the Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas: a Didionesque locale. (Caryl Phillips once told me that he liked to write his books in faraway hotel rooms. I admire that. It brings to mind Janet Flanner at the Ritz and James Schuyler at the Chelsea.) Joan Didion has often noted transiency’s allure, a writer’s necessary ...

Carré on spying

John Sutherland

3 April 1986
A Perfect Spy 
by John le Carré.
Hodder, 463 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 9780340387849
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The Novels of John le Carré 
by David Monaghan.
Blackwell, 207 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 631 14283 5
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Taking sides: The Fiction of John le Carré 
by Tony Barley.
Open University, 175 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 335 15251 1
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John le Carré 
by Peter Lewis.
Ungar, 228 pp., £10.95, August 1985, 0 8044 2243 5
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A Servant’s Tale 
by Paula Fox.
Virago, 321 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 86068 702 3
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A State of Independence 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 158 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 571 13910 8
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... apparent deprivation. And it is written with a sparse lyricism which is extraordinarily affecting. Caryl Phillips was born in St Kitts in 1958. In the same year, his family came to England where he has been brought up. A State of Independence is his second novel and is set (with a little precautionary evasion as to names) in his native island, on the eve ...

John McEnroe plus Anyone

Edward Said: Tennis

1 July 1999
The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis 
edited by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 327 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19540 7
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... memory left after their time is over. Some account of the organic nature of tennis is missing from Caryl Phillips’s rather too random compilation, The Right Set: The Faber Book of Tennis, which I had looked forward to reading as an anthology that starts with Suzanne Lenglen and ends more or less with Venus Williams. The game’s tissue, if you will, is ...
7 March 1985
The Final Passage 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 205 pp., £8.95, February 1985, 0 571 13437 8
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Merle, and Other Stories 
by Paule Marshall.
Virago, 210 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 86068 665 5
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Heaven and Earth 
by Frederic Raphael.
Cape, 310 pp., £8.95, February 1985, 0 224 02294 6
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The Tenth Man 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 157 pp., £6.95, March 1985, 9780370308319
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... edge is blunted, the resettlement myth persists. Ulyssean travelogues are few and far between in Caryl Phillips’s The Final Passage and the novels of Paule Marshall, but families uproot themselves. Their stories correspond, but not in time or place. Phillips’s travellers leave their small Caribbean island for ...

Fictbites

Peter Campbell

18 May 1989
Any Old Iron 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 339 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 09 173842 3
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The Ragged End 
by John Spurling.
Weidenfeld, 313 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 297 79505 8
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Higher Ground 
by Caryl Phillips.
Viking, 224 pp., £11.95, April 1989, 0 670 82620 0
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The Flint Bed 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 185 pp., £10.95, April 1989, 0 436 09788 5
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Stark 
by Ben Elton.
Joseph, 453 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3302 1
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... at Falklands time. The colonial impulse is seen at its most brutal in the first part of Caryl Phillips’s Higher Ground, a novel made up of three episodes linked by theme, but not by time, place or characters. In a West African fort, as the slave trade wanes, a black man, a factor despised by both Africans and Europeans, survives because he is ...

Inside the Barrel

Brent Hayes Edwards: The French Slave Trade

10 September 2009
Memoires des esclavages: la fondation d’un centre national pour la memoire des esclavages et de leurs abolitions 
by Edouard Glissant.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €14.90, May 2007, 978 2 07 078554 4
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The French Atlantic Triangle: Literature and Culture of the Slave Trade 
by Christopher Miller.
Duke, 571 pp., £20.99, March 2008, 978 0 8223 4151 2
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... has brought about in Britain or the United States; it’s hard, too, to imagine Toni Morrison or Caryl Phillips being asked to take charge of such matters. As Christopher Miller points out in The French Atlantic Triangle, in France ‘literature was one of the most important battlegrounds for the debate on slavery.’ But in spite of the wealth of ...

Diary

Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party

21 May 2014
... if I was carrying a rare and deadly virus. The jamboree included a lecture on Walcott’s work by Caryl Phillips, the launch of an edition of his poetry selected by Glyn Maxwell, a former student, and a screening of a new Dutch documentary about him.* The film was shown in the presence of the governor-general, who wore a St Lucian blue twinset. Alongside ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005

5 January 2006
... It is the law of institutions. Like Tesco the police must grow. 22 October. Mention in a piece by Caryl Phillips in today’s Guardian of a school in Leeds against which his school used to play football. ‘When I was a boy, we used to play football against a secondary school with the somewhat hopeful name of Leeds Modern. The joke, of course, was there ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London

18 November 2004
London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... several of the contemporary writers whose work he discusses are preoccupied with the 18th century. Caryl Phillips’s play The Shelter (1984) tells of ‘an elegant 18th-century West Country lady who finds herself marooned on a desert island with a slave whom she despises but is wholly reliant on’. David Dabydeen, whose 1987 book, Hogarth’s ...

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