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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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!

Off the wall: Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle on his new novel, Roy Keane, and writing about ordinary people's lives

Roddy Doyle's new book 'Dead Man Talking', costs just £1. Aimed at people with poor literacy, it is inspired by a death in his own family, the Booker winner tells Arifa Akbar

Return of the 'people's princess': Monica Ali

Ethnic fixation is shackling bright new writers; Week in Books

A few years ago, a friend organised a conference for British-Asian writers to talk about why they wrote and whether “British-Asian writing” as a genre was felt to be a boon or burden. The first discussion brought thundering divisions when half the room insisted that ethnicity had nothing to do with it, while the other half argued that cultural identity couldn’t be divorced from creativity.

Granta 130: India edited by Ian Jack, book review: Is India due a golden age of reportage?

In 1997, when Granta published its anthology India! The Golden Jubilee, the world was at a very different place. The Satanic Verses had "happened" just under a decade ago; Arundhati Roy won the Booker prize a few months after her contribution to Granta; the work of VS Naipaul, Vikram Seth and Anita Desai had helped to formulate a new genre of subcontinental writing in the English language that had proved to be so critically successful in the West. And there they all were, contributing to Granta.

Girlie bonding: Daisy Goodwin likened her internship as chair of the Orange Prize jury to 'Sex and the City but with books instead of shoes'

Manuscripts lost and found - a fire isn't always the end of it; Week in Books

Poor Daisy Goodwin, who might or might not have lost her half-written novel in a house fire this week. But at least she’s in good company, despite her appalling loss. She figures in the pantheon of writers whose creative juices have flowed for nought.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang; trans. Deborah Smith, book review: Strong meat from a dream of a tale

A stifled woman's inner life is the subject of a surreal, spellbinding South Korean novel
Commuters wait for their train
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Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable