caryl phillips’ the nature of blood

I’ve finally read Caryl Phillips’ The Nature of Blood, a novel at least two friends have urged me to read for some time now. This urging usually comes after I mention Tayeb Salih’s (Al-Tayyib Salih) Season of Migration to the North, which riffs off of Shakespeare’s Othello. So I knew Othello would figure in Phillips’ novel. I didn’t know that the main narration was by a character named Eva Stern, a holocaust death camp survivor. I was frustrated with the seeming lack of connection between the narrative strands, and this frustration did not abate until the end of the novel and the introduction of the character of Malka. Eva Stern’s telling of survival is powerful; but I also kept thinking of Ilona Karmel’s Estate of Memory, which I think is more effective. I was frustrated, too, by the Othello character. I still think Salih’s novel is magnificent; it offers a thick and transformative reading of the Othello narrative. Season of Migration to the North is still my pick for one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read.


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