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.

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A terminally ill woman looks at a self portrait of Rembrandt at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum

Happiness is.... what? Just the opposite of misery, or more? Week in Books column

Earlier this year, a terminally ill cancer patient requested a last visit to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum to see a Rembrandt exhibition. A striking image accompanied the news story, of the patient on a gurney, surrounded by staff, face turned towards one of Rembrandt’s final self-portraits, the colour and shade in the photograph reflecting something of the light falling across Rembrandt’s aged face in the painting, and the edges of darkness converging behind him.

In the US Grey has reportedly sold 1.1m copies to date across paperback, ebook and audiobook

It's not all 'Grey': EL James's 50 Shades' spin-off is causing consternation

An online campaign that has taken social media by storm

Still relevant: Gregory Peck (left) and Brock Peters (right) in a scene from the 1962 film adaptation of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

Scout and Atticus Finch can't be consigned to history: Week in Books

Last week, I found myself on a privately owned Greek island with no shops, wi-fi, radio or television. Sprawled day after day on a swinging bed under a giant oak tree, I discovered that the book you take to such a remote place (a permanent population of three people, limited electricity, 2,500 olive trees, a yoga shala, some loud owls and a resident dog) is your connection to the less scenic world you’ve left behind.

Shining: Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in ‘Sex and the City’, in 1999

Killing Monica: Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell's dark new novel has a familiar feel

There is no mention of Carrie in the book, but the plot rings bells

After the injunction translations of Rhodes' memoir were put on hold

Bravo to a survivor who refused to be silenced: Week in Books column

James Rhodes’s memoir arrives out of a maelstrom of pre-publication controversy: his ex-wife tried to stop Instrumental from being published; a court lifted an injunction last week and the pianist has justified his reasons for writing it. It might otherwise have been another celebrity memoir, although one that includes Rhodes’s child rape, self-harm, attempted suicide and bouts in locked wards for severe psychoses. All honestly, graphically, and eloquently described (minus rock’n’roll levels of swearing).

To translate or not to translate? Allama Iqbal, known as Pakistan's national poet, remains little known in the West

Wanted: Chauffeur to deliver Allama Iqbal to the English reader: Week in Books column

Outside regional hero worship, few non-academics have heard of Pakistan's national poet

High spirits: 'Conviviality at Bob Sawyer's: Three Men Enjoying a Drink' (c1836) by
Phiz from 'The Pickwick Papers'

Did Dickens send his illustrator to his death? Or is that fiction? Week in Books column

The integrity of Charles Dickens is in question (again). This time, not over an illegitimate child with the mistress or the rapacious moneymaking, but over the claim that he stole key ideas for his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, from his illustrator, Robert Seymour, who committed suicide shortly after this alleged creative theft. Death and Mr Pickwick is a novel but its author, Stephen Jarvis, says he is writing “faction” – fact-based fiction – with evidence to bring Dickens’s character into question.

Back for Round Two: but do we want these character comebacks in fiction? Week in Books column

Tyler Durden – or Brad Pitt from Fight Club as he is more commonly known – is back, even before the much-anticipated graphic-novel sequel that is due later this year. Chuck Palahniuk has given Tyler a new lease of life in a book of short stories, Make Something Up, or so we are told. A warm-up for The Big Fight, you might call it. Read the story, “Expedition”, to know more, but beware the thumping disappointment that might – and often does – accompany the reincarnation of iconic or cultish characters such as the dark, doomy Durden.

A mourner holds a sign saying 'Je suis Ahmed' (I am Ahmed) during the funeral of murdered police officer Ahmed Merabet, in Bobigny, France

How many more books will there be telling me how to be a Muslim? Week in Books column

There are three kinds of Muslims, according to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book, Heretic. Yes, three kinds in a population of 1.6 billion followers of the faith who live in vastly different cultures around the globe. Firstly, she says, the fundamentalists who see Islamic edicts as eternal truths, set in the seventh century and unchangeable ever after. Hirsi Ali calls them “Medina Muslims”, who kill non-believers and blasphemers, often in horrendous medieval circumstances. We know this category well.

Rushanara Ali, meeting Bethnal Green residents on Thursday, says it’s important to discuss the radicalisation of young people in the area

General Election 2015: Rushanara Ali's campaign to win Bethnal Green and Bow - and undo the work of Lutfur Rahman

Ali seems poised, in a post-Rahman Tower Hamlets, to heal the wounds that have left this community divided

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The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'