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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Taiye Selasi

A foreign language can make sex scenes read better; Week in Books column

What is the right language of love? Or sex, I should say, if I were being less British. There are those literary fiction writers who daren’t venture into that territory at all and then there are those intrepid others who have found themselves on the receiving end of a Bad Sex Award.

<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. 

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Day In a Page

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'