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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<p>Revolutionary Road, 2008</p>
<p>Based on Ken Kesey’s novel, the film charts the demise of a power-couple in the 1950s whose obsession with keeping up appearances leads to destruction. </p>

No magical realism please, We're Mexican; Week in Books column

Remember magical realism? A term fashionably recast from its European surrealist roots to be applied to contemporary literature that was (usually) ‘not from these parts’. So exotic folklore, supernatural or baroque fantasy – what Cuban writer, Alejo Carpentier, described as “marvelous real” – woven into the narrative experimentalism of novels by Salman Rushdie, Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and virtually every other Latin American author of note. I remember as a student thrilling at all the heaven-bound ascension of women hanging laundry and daughters with paranormal powers.

Why Lisbeth's return is stirring up a hornet's nest; Week in Books

So now we know the title of the fourth Millennium novel. And we've seen the dust-jacket (a variation on the tattooed torso that featured on the previous three).MacLehose Press revealed both titbits ceremoniously – the novel, they told us, had already been acquired for translation by 38 publishers. And the Swedish author would not be giving interviews until close to the August publication of The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Young Rebus: Author Ian Rankin

Your sternest but best editor is almost always the one you sleep with... Week in Books

“Shakes, cold sweats, anxiety, dizziness –yes, it’s almost time to let my wife see my new book. At which point, it ceases to be perfect...”: Ian Rankin’s tweet this week, on the apprehension felt by any writer, however seasoned, on handing a just-finished manuscript to their first, most formative reader: the other half. Rankin elaborated further on his wife’s indispensable, if unforgiving, role in the story’s revision: “All the plot-holes I can’t see, the clunky constructions and repeated phrases and tropes – they’re about to be pointed out...”

Ngozi Adichie is great on human interactions, exposing blind spots and weak spots

A book prize as a force of change? Week in Books column

The British Library's usually atmosphere-free conference room was set to be filled to the rafters on Friday 20 March at a sell-out lecture on 'fiction as a social force' by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The lecture, however, was cancelled.

Terry Pratchett, creator of the Discworld series of books

Terry Pratchett meets Death: Indomitable and inimitable to the end – the light fantastic goes out

Arifa Akbar mourns the passing of a unique literary talent

Suffragettes holding white sunshades advertising their newspaper 'Suffragette'.

How to reinstate women - not birds - back into history; Week in Books column

Last week, the writer and journalist Anita Anand revealed a quietly appalling fact while talking about her book on an Indian noblewoman, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary. In early conversations with editors about this fascinating biography-cum-history of a singular life unearthed from the archives, which reveals the complex intersections between first-wave feminism, the Great War and the Indian independence movement, she said she entered into discussions with two male editors from a large publishing house that shall remain unnamed.

Freedom fighters: artwork from ‘The 99’, a series of comic books with characters that personify the attributes of Allah Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa

The all-Islamic super-heroes: Muslim children love 'The 99' comics, but hardliners loathe their creator - whose trial for heresy is looming

Naif Al-Mutawa has detractors in both America and the Arab world, though for opposing reasons – to US conservatives, he is a terrorist; to Islamist Arabs, he is a heretic. He talks to Arifa Akbar

Joanna Trollope: Literary festivals abroad focus on a love of good literature

Literary festivals 'value celebrity above writing,' claims novelist Joanna Trollope

She accused events of paying celebrities to attend and treating some fiction authors with a lack of respect

Edvard Munch's 'The Scream', 1895

Staring back at depression can leave the reader uplifted; Week in Books column

When Franz Kafka’s travelling salesman wakes up late one morning transformed into an insect, his family (and boss) banging at the door for him to attend to his duties at the office, we understand Gregor Samsa’s “malaise” to be socially induced, a tyrannical force insisting on nine-to-five normality that has turned him into something smaller, more scuttling, than he is. The Metamorphosis’s metaphor reflects capitalism’s dehumanising effects on the soul. Existential angst is also what we call it, though it could just as well be – as Matt Haig argues in his excellent new book – a sign that Gregor is very, very depressed. So depressed he can’t get out of bed, face his family, or feel like a functioning human being. 

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, book review: This isle is full of monsters

Ishiguro's new novel is filled with fantasy creatures but, says Arifa Akbar, it touches on deeply human concerns
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NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own