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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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
Frieda Hughes at the Independent Bath Literature festival

The Independent Bath Literature Festival 2015: Frieda Hughes, Kate Tempest and Kazuo Ishiguro lead star-studded lineup

It’s two decades since the Bath Literature Festival was launched, and this year’s  line-up is the best yet

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in a scene from 'Gone Girl'

Happy Valentine's Day and long live domestic dysfunction

So! Some literary food for thought for 14 February: if you’re a freshly courting couple, it won’t last. If you’ve been married a while, he’s having an affair with his laptop. And if you’ve got it all – husband, kids, house, garden, hamster – it’s doomed to unravel through marital infidelity, abducted kids, dad stepping on the hamster and then deep-freezing it, mum having a fantasy affair with the man installing the expensive kitchen. Affairs aplenty. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
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We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor