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, and is currently judging the Aesthetica Magazine new writing prize.
21 August 2014 02:07 PM
It’s hard to judge a book without regard to who has written it. Perhaps we’re not supposed to. I was reminded of this twice this week, first when a colleague screwed up her face at the water-cooler criticisms of Martin Amis’s holocaust novel, The Zone of Interest and asked, “Are we being especially hard because we have such high expectations?”
14 August 2014 04:00 PM
24 July 2014 12:38 PM
So the American’s aren’t coming, despite the column inches of worry that they would descend like a Viking horde and commandeer our prize after Man Booker opened its doors to international writers (beyond its Commonwealth scope). Well, four are coming, I suppose: Siri Hustvedt, Karen Joy Fowler, Joshua Ferris, Richard Powers. Or four and a half if you count Joseph O’Neill (who is Irish/American).
17 July 2014 05:05 PM
Next week, a literary salon will discuss the rise of the domestic thriller. Lucie Whitehouse, the novelist and one of three speakers at Bloomsbury’s event, has already called the genre by its other – not altogether uncontentious – name. “I’d define ‘chick noir’ as psychological thrillers that explore the fears and anxieties experienced by many women. They deal in the dark side of relationships, intimate danger, the idea that you can never really know your husband or partner...”
10 July 2014 11:34 AM
There are two rooms in the National Portrait Gallery’s Virginia Woolf exhibition which show, under glass, the beautifully designed covers of the books that Woolf published after she set up her own press with her husband, Leonard Woolf.
03 July 2014 04:30 PM
Herman Koch's second book to be translated from his native Dutch has all the distinctive features of his first, the international bestseller, The Dinner. There is a narrator who whispers warped thoughts into your ear. There is the black humour and dangerous fantasy that might erupt into the real world at any moment. And there is the hissing satire that mocks bourgeois values and threatens a sudden, alarming loss of etiquette.
03 July 2014 02:58 PM
It was sad to hear how long it had taken young adult (YA) fiction author Kevin Brooks to publish The Bunker Diary, as he collected the Carnegie Medal for it. Or why it had taken so long, I should say. Ten years, he revealed, because no publisher would touch a YA book whose themes – kidnapping, illness, torture and drug addiction – didn’t offer enough “hope”.
26 June 2014 03:30 PM
Uncovering talent: the prize that rewards not just one, but eight, British novelists: Arifa Akbar, Week in Books
19 June 2014 07:00 PM
What do we make of a literary prize that picks eight winners? And one that rewards those not setting the world alight with their debuts nor those whom Alan Yentob might dedicate an Imagine series to, but writers who are on their second, third, maybe even 10th novel, quietly getting on with the next one?
12 June 2014 12:00 AM
When Sebastian Faulks first published Birdsong, it was met with a muted reception. The year was 1993 and it was not exactly fashionable to be writing about the things that the novel describes so viscerally: the battle of the Somme, the terror of the trenches, the claustrophobic terror of the tunnels beneath those trenches, and the assault on the souls and spirits of the men who saw wave after wave of slaughter on the battlefields of the Great War.
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