Caryl Phillips' The Nature of Blood Essay

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Caryl Phillips' The Nature of Blood

On its most immediate level, Caryl Phillips’ The Nature of Blood narrates several stories of the Jewish Diaspora, using the familiar Shakespearean character Othello to provide a counterpoint to the others’ experiences of displacement. The Nature of Blood thus initially seems to fit awkwardly among texts by other West Indian authors who use the Caribbean as the setting of their work or incorporate West Indian characters into their work. Through his multi-stranded narrative, however, Phillips creates a geographical setting that mirrors the multi-regional influence of the Caribbean. The triangular space of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa shaped by the character’s stories parallels the historical
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This triangular situation of spaces in turn allows Phillips, while not specifically addressing the region, to explore the condition of the Caribbean diaspora.

The first narrative of The Nature of Blood unsettles the existence of geographical “home” by questioning optimistic views of settlement. Stephan opens the novel, explaining plans for the creation of the new state of Israel to Moshe, a Romanian Holocaust survivor. Their dialogue reveals Moshe’s unease with the claim to Israel as a new Jewish state, even as Stephan expresses optimism: “‘Tell me, what will be the name of the country?’ ‘Our country,’ I said. ‘The country will belong to you too’” (Phillips 3). While Stephan insists upon claiming Israel both for himself and Moshe, Moshe resists this possessiveness, hence his inquiry about “the country” rather than “his country.” Even after Stephan asserts that Moshe has as much stake in Israel as the other settlers, Moshe hesitates, failing even to remember the name of the new country. At the same time that Stephan and Moshe’s dialogue questions resettlement, the prose of the novel’s opening establishes Moshe as part of a diasporic population. The narrator describes Moshe as one of “the
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