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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This wood and glass pillow book forms part of the Institute of Sexology exhibition at the Wellcome Trust

Exposing an authoritarian state with explicit sex in fiction: Week in Books column

In 2007, the Chinese novelist Chen Xiwo wrote a story collection based on the deadly sins, with each of the seven dramatised explicitly and without concession to state censors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, The Book of Sins was banned by the Chinese government. One story was seen as particularly degenerate: “I Love My Mum”, in which a disabled teenager is arrested for murdering his mother and admits to having had sex before – and after – whipping her to death.

Struggles of creation: Elif Shafak

How to free the written word: protest, and freedom in literature: Week in Books column

Tonight at around sunset, a book burning will kick-start the London Literature Festival’s meditation on a dystopic, post-literate future where reading is an act of rebellion. Or at least, an imaginary book burning with a conceptual pyre in the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room, around which a dramatised reading of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 will take place. The audience are invited to bring their favourite books to this Brave New Bookless World, where even Fifty Shades of Grey is samizdat.

The harbour and fort on Cabrera

Cabrera: Get away from the crowds of Mallorca

Mallorca offers beautiful scenery but hordes of tourists. To escape, hop to the nearby uninhabited island of Cabrera, now open to overnight visitors.
LONDON - AUGUST 20: The Rolling Stones members Keith Richards and Ron Wood(L) perform on stage at Twickenham Stadium on 20 August, 2006 in London, England.

Children's books: how rock 'n' roll; week in books column

I wonder how many five-year-olds are itching to get their hands on Keith Richards’s Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. Or how many are champing at the bit to see his daughter, Theodora Richards’s illustrations accompanying the text. And to froth over the gallery of pictures, including Keith with Mick in the early days of The Rolling Stones. And to coo over the story which traces Richards’s thrilling childhood encounter with music: “I took a long look at that guitar that always sat on top of his piano. It seemed more beautiful than ever. All I wanted was to make the strings go dinka-plink-plink….”

North Norfolk Digital's finest, Alan Partridge

Norwich, flat? It's positively rocking! Week in Books column

Norwich. What rich tapestry of images and associations does the East Anglian city inspire for you? Does it, by any chance, bring to mind the nation’s vanguard of young literary talent? No? Well, put Alan Partridge out of your head for a moment and consider the fact that Norwich is, by all accounts, turning into the city of choice for edgy authors and publishers in the UK.

Intricate plotting: Author Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, book review: Novel tackles big themes but lacks bite

Sarah Waters' women are good at falling in love with each other. They are also good at keeping this love secret. The Paying Guests, her sixth novel, is set in London of 1922, a period that – just about – allows her lesbian lovers the freedom to pronounce their love aloud.

Haruki Murakami is nothing like JK Rowling. He may sell like Tom Clancy, yet he remains a cult

Should we judge a book by its author? Week in Books column

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?”

How To Be Both by Ali Smith, book review

A Man Booker longlisted novelist who continues to surprise and innovate
Take a peek at the Bayeux Tapestry (, marking the Norman conquest of England

What happened to America's invasion of Man Booker? Arifa Akbar, Week in Books

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).

Secrets and marketing tricks: Anthony Horowitz, at the exclusive launch of his novel's proof

What's the meaning of 'chick-noir'? Week in Books

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...”

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