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 is currently a judge of the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and the Independent Scholastic New Children's Prize 2014.

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Arifa Akbar: An author who is writing his best work from beyond the grave

Some great authors have published their worst works from beyond the grave. A few though, keep getting better when they’re dead, such as the Chilean novelist and short story writer, Roberto Bolaño. His seminal five-part novel, 2666, came out posthumously, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and convinced the world he was not just a master of the short form but could put out his life’s best work at nearly 900 pages, even after death.

Getting Away with Murder: Benazir Bhutto and the Politics of Pakistan by Heraldo Munoz; book review

We are introduced to Heraldo Munoz, former Chilean ambassador to the UN, as he is called up by Ban Ki-moon and asked to lead a commission into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, killed in the full face of the public on 27 December 2007, on her return to Pakistan after exile.

One minute interview: AL Kennedy

Where are you now and what can you see?

Arifa Akbar: Some fictional characters are gay. Get over it

I was waiting for the Australian author, Christos Tsiolkas to begin his first UK event this week and, as the audience filed in from the drizzle, I noticed a particular absence in the room. That of women. It was just me until – phew – three others slunk in. Tsiolkas's reading at a Bloomsbury basement bar had been organised by the bookshop Gay's the Word, so the clue was in the title, but I was thrown at first, to be among an audience with shared affinities that reared themselves – fascinatingly – during the discussion.

Arifa Akbar: The most memorable history lesson on war is found in fiction

Remember Septimus Warren Smith? The returning First World War veteran who haunted the darker recesses of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway? Septimus Smith, who couldn’t stop being tormented by his raw, ravaging, suicide-inducing memories of the front, even as the sun shone on postwar London? He has remained with me in a way that no history lesson has. Sorry Mr Gove, but I’m not embarrassed to say that I learned the best lessons about the Great War through great fiction.

Best of 2014: Books

Arifa Akbar picks this year’s must-read book releases

Arifa Akbar: Does a book make its title or the other way around?

Remember the good old days when titles of novels were nothing more than, well, titles, rather than marketing manoeuvres? Wuthering Heights denoted the place where the book was set. The Canterbury Tales were tales told by pilgrims on the way to – yes – Canterbury. Crime and Punishment was about just that. Madame Bovary was the doomed titular figure on which the tragedy was based. King Lear, Hamlet – same deal.

The Night Guest, By Fiona McFarlane: Book review - a suspenseful debut novel about ageing and illness from a talented young voice

There is an irony to so many young novelists writing about dementia (Samantha Harvey's The Wilderness, Jonathan Franzen's essay "My Father's Brain", to mention just two). In some respects though, it isn't ironic at all.

Sex and the Citadel, By Shereen El Feki: Book review

El Feki, a half-Egyptian broadcaster and academic, conducted a five-year investigation into what goes on in the intimate lives of ordinary 21st-century Arabs. Her rationale behind this experiment was that sexual norms reflect the politics of a society.

Naval gazing, By Anne H. Putnam: Book review

This is a no-holds-barred account of weight gain, weight loss and all the psychological torments in between – from the trauma of wearing a swimming costume or not being able to zip up a garment in a shop changing room, to being seen as invisible by boys as a 20-stone teenager.

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Day In a Page

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Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

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Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
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Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

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Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
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Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
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BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
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Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
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Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
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Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

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It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little