Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014.

A golden moment for children's fiction? Week in Books column

A children’s book this week became the Costa Book of the Year. Frances Hardinge, with The Lie Tree, won the prize over Kate Atkinson, Andrew Michael Hurley and all the other front-runners. If this doesn’t sound momentous enough, then even Hardinge looked shocked at the ceremony, admitting that she hadn’t prepared a speech because, as everyone knows, “the children’s book never wins”. 

Shakespeare, the way he would have played it: Week in Books column

There is another way to see Shakespeare, I discovered this week, beyond the improvised, the abridged and the foreign-language productions that reboot the Bard. It is Shakespeare staged without a rehearsal, as was originally done in the 16th and 17th centuries, when each player was given a scroll with only his part, and relied on original “cue scripts” that contained the barest of contexts – when, and to whom to speak. No one, except for Shakespeare, knew the play as a whole before it was performed thus. Actors’ senses of discovery mirrored the audiences’ own. Some had hours to learn lines and carried multiple parts in their heads.

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