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Talking Books

British author Caryl Phillips discusses his writing

Caryl Phillips is a prolific British author of plays, novels and non-fiction. He discusses his life, education and work with the BBC’s Razia Iqbal.

Caryl Phillips was born in St Kitts in the Caribbean, moved to Great Britain when he was four months old and grew up in Leeds in the north of England. After studying English literature at Oxford University, he wrote his first play, Strange Fruit in 1980.

Phillips has since written several plays and numerous scripts for radio and television. His novels include The Final Passage (1985), Higher Ground (1989) and In The Falling Snow (2009); he has also written non-fiction and edited two anthologies. His latest book, Colour Me English is a selection of essays published in 2011. He has taught at universities around the world and is currently Professor of English at Yale University.

He talks to Razia Iqbal about growing up in Britain and his current home in America, his relationship with both countries and the effect of 9/11 on his perception of the United States. Issues of displacement and identity have followed Phillips throughout his life – he explains how this has created a “liberating distance” which helps with his writing.

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