Prof Caryl Phillips is a highly accomplished novelist, playwright, critic and essayist, who was born in St Kitts, and migrated to Britain at an early age. He is currently a professor of English at Yale University, and has enjoyed a distinguished career of accolades, prizes, numerous publications across the arts, and a continuous advocacy for Caribbean people, writers and ideas via his novels, his teaching, and his work as an editor and critic.
Prof Phillips published ten novels between 1985 and 2009 beginning with The Final Passage, and including the Commonwealth prize-winning A Distant Shore (2004), Cambridge, The Nature of Blood and In the Falling Snow. He produced four works of non-fiction between 1987 and 2011, as well as edited two anthologies, one of which was Extravagant Strangers (1997). He has also written numerous stage, screen and radio plays. He adapted VS Naipaul’s novel, The Mystic Masseur, for the screen in the Merchant Ivory 2001 film. And he was series editor for Faber and Faber’s Caribbean list between 1996 and 2001, which was committed to publishing Caribbean writing.
Most of Prof Phillips’ novels are set in or about the Caribbean, and he has made it a career imperative to be an advocate of the Caribbean and Caribbean writers. He was named the University of the West Indies Humanities Scholar of the Year in 1999. He taught master classes at the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill and St Augustine, and undertook reading tours of Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad in 1991 and 1997. In 2010 he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies.
Prof Phillips’ present position at Yale University is the latest in a number of teaching and writing positions he has held at prestigious universities the world over during the last quarter-century. His positions include fellowships, visiting writers’ and professorial appointments at Oxford University, Amherst College, and Columbia University in the US and UK. He has also taught or been resident at universities in India, Africa, and Europe.
He has been awarded numerous prizes and awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a British Council Fellowship, the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In addition to the 2004 Commonwealth Prize for A Distant Shore, he was named the (British) Sunday Times Best Young Writer of the Year in 1992, and featured in the 1993 Granta list of best young British writers. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of the Arts, and an Honorary Fellow of The Queens College, Oxford University.