The European Tribe

Overview

In this richly descriptive and haunting narrative, Caryl Phillips chronicles a journey through modern-day Europe, his quest guided by a moral compass rather than a map.  Seeking personal definition within the parameters of growing up black in Europe, he discovers that the natural loneliness and confusion inherent in long jorneys collides with the bigotry of the "European Tribe"-a global community of whites caught up in an unyielding, Eurocentric history.

Phillips ...

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Overview

In this richly descriptive and haunting narrative, Caryl Phillips chronicles a journey through modern-day Europe, his quest guided by a moral compass rather than a map.  Seeking personal definition within the parameters of growing up black in Europe, he discovers that the natural loneliness and confusion inherent in long jorneys collides with the bigotry of the "European Tribe"-a global community of whites caught up in an unyielding, Eurocentric history.

Phillips deftly illustrates the scenes and characters he encounters, from Casablanca and Costa del Sol to Venice, Amsterdam, Oslo, and Moscow.  He ultimately discovers that "Europe is blinded by her past, and does not understand the high price of her churches, art galleries, and history as the prison from which Europeans speak."

In the afterword to the Vintage edition, Phillips revisits the Europe he knew as a young man and offers fresh observations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating and topical subject....[Phillips] creates disturbingly powerful images of the cultural collision between black and white."- The New York Times Book Review

"Eye-opening...The European Tribe is one black man's anwser to                 de Tocqueville's classic, and may well become a classic of cultural exploration itself." —Los Angeles Times

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An Oxford graduate born in the West Indies, 29-year-old Phillips (A State of Independence has suffered from racial discrimination ever since first coming to London as a child. In these short notes on a year's international wanderings, he speculates on the problems of minority peoples living amongst ``the European tribe,'' which has forced its languages and cultures on the world. In Casablanca, the poverty of the Moroccan people is at variance with his memories of the movie classic; in Venice, he reflects on Shakespeare's Shylock and Othello; on a Paris Metro platform his arm is grabbed by a young black man who has been pickpocketed by whites; and in Amsterdam, he visits the Anne Frank house. An Irish archbishop tells him that Flora Shaw, a Dubliner, gave Nigeria its name (after ``Niger-area''). Foreign workers in West Germany ``have no civil rights'' and ``do not officially exist.'' Customs officers in Norway hassle him at the airport. Phillips's findings are not especially new, but his eyes are sensitive and his pen is sharp. He deserves better editing. First serial to the New York Times Book Review. (July)
Library Journal
British novelist Phillips set out in 1984 to explore Europe. He began his journey in Morocco, Europe's closest southern neighbor, and subsequently traveled to Spain, southern France (where he met James Baldwin), Venice, Amsterdam, Poland, Norway, Moscow, and, finally, home to Britain. He was not seeking sights or museums or adventure; instead, Phillips's journey was one of personal exploration, an attempt to solve the question of what it means to be an exile and a minority in Europe (he is black). Phillips has little empathy with the cultural bravado of a Eurocentric past, and he ends his book with a powerful criticism of what he calls the ``European tribe''the global community of white power brokers who have imposed their culture and language on their non-white neighbors of the Third World. A bit strident but recommended for larger collections. Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Library, Concord, N.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375707049
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Pages: 148
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Caryl Phillips lives in New York City and London.

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