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Foreigners, Race, Class & Antisemitism: Caryl Phillips in conversation with Ian Buruma

November 12, 2007

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Caryl Phillips: "I'd like to hear about Ian Buruma's experiences of belonging and feeling an outsider in England, and any literature or art forms that have helped him understand the English or notions of being an outsider... Ian's book on the murder of Theo Van Gogh takes the debate about identity and belonging in Europe beyond issues of race and class and tackles the important place we're now at, which is grappling with notions of faith and Islam. I'm very interested in the role that literature can play in negotiating a middle passage between a politically sponsored monocultural approach and an equally potentially treacherous multicultural alternative."

Ian Buruma: "A strand running through Caryl Phillips' new book Foreigners (and to some extent even mine, about Theo van Gogh) is the overlap between race and class. Britain, in comparison to Holland, say, or Germany, was perhaps always more class than race oriented--hence the fact that Indian aristocrats could play for the English cricket team, or enter English clubs--something less common in other European empires."

Caryl Phillips new book Foreigners is a hybrid of reportage, fiction, and historical fact that tells the stories of three black men whose lives speak resoundingly to the place and role of the foreigner in English society.

Together Caryl Phillips and Ian Buruma will discuss notions of identity, belonging, race, class, anti-semitism, and faith and Islam, which affect present-day Europe, reflecting on how these issues are examined in literature and the broader culture.

About Caryl Phillips

Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts, West Indies, and brought up in England. He is the author of three books of nonfiction and eight novels. His most recent book, Dancing in the Dark, won the 2006 PEN/Beyond Margins Award; A Distant Shore won the 2004 Commonwealth 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. His new book is Foreigners.

 

  

About Ian Buruma

Ian Buruma was born in the Netherlands. He studied Chinese at Leyden University and cinema at Nihon University in Tokyo. Living in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Berlin, Washington DC, London, Oxford, and New York City, he has worked as a journalist, filmmaker, and author. His latest book, Murder in Amsterdam, won the LA Times Book Award. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, and Henry Luce Professor at Bard College. He lives in Milan, New York.