Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts, West Indies, and brought up in England. He is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. His novel Dancing in the Dark won the 2006 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, and an earlier novel, A Distant Shore, won the 2004 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. His other awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and currently lives in New York.
``Phillips calls these three novellas a novel, and they are so allied in feeling, though not in style or subject matter, and so superbly written that it would be carping not to go along,'' noted PW . Each story captures an apocalyptic moment in the life of a protagonist being tried in his or her innermost self by history's cruelties. (Oct.)
Throughout history people have found themselves trapped in dehumanizing situations, their sense of personal dignity challenged. It is such situations that connect the three stories making up this work. In the first, an African adept at languages finds himself the toady of slavers, accepted neither in his world nor theirs. In the second, a young black man in a Southern jail struggles to maintain his fierce pride and revolutionary fervor in the face of isolation and brutality. Indeed, one of the story's most telling moments occurs when he asks, ``. . . they have called us nigger, then negro, then colored, and now black; do you imagine they will ever call us Americans?'' The final story involves a young Polish woman, a refugee from Nazi terror, now trapped in fear and loneliness in England. While both interesting in concept and compelling, the book at times seems to be trying too hard, and the characters seem to lose their naturalness. Serious fiction for larger libraries from the author of State of Independence ( LJ 6/15/86).-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.