Arts and Entertainment

The idea of The Great American Novel feels like an albatross around the neck of that country’s literature. Sooner or later every white middle-class male writer with any kind of reputation feels obliged to have a stab at it, usually with limited success. Eventually they think it’s time to pack away all the fun stuff like storytelling, energy and plot, and make some big state-of-the-nation address, telling people exactly how things stand in the good ol’ US of A. Interestingly, America’s women writers don’t tend to feel the obligation to grandstand so strongly, and their novels are usually all the better for that.

President Hollande's approval rating has fallen faster than that of any other French President in the Fifth Republic, with 3.5 million French people out of work

François Hollande heading for crisis as he fails to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment

The French President staked his political credibility on a fall in the number of unemployed by the end of the year, but the figures are not going his way. What now for France’s increasingly unpopular leader, asks John Lichfield

Kalashnikov with his creation, the most successful assault rifle ever made

Is Mikhail Kalashnikov in Hell? The man was confident he would not go there

World view: When I met him, his Siberian eyes were as alert as a wolf’s; he was brash, tough, unashamed. I guess he had to be

President Hollande - a frustratingly minimalist domestic reformer but a bold, global statesman

'Tightrope walker' and 'trapeze artist': François Hollande is a wimp at home and a warrior in Africa

The French President has been criticised for his interventions in Mali and CAR but insists it is not old-fashioned paternalism but a mission to save lives

What do Nicolas Sarkozy, Beyonce and Luke Skywalker have in common?

Nicolas Sarkozy reveals his ultimate 'destiny'

The former French president apparently informed pals of his mapped-out life plan recently

A scene from The Duck House at the Vaudeville Theatre

Fresh blow for François Hollande as French unemployment hits 16-year high

French president François Hollande’s woes deepened today as unemployment hit its highest level for more than 16 years.

A poster reading '1:12' (R) hangs next to a poster with a slogan in German reading: 'Stop con atists - yes!'

Swiss voters reject '1:12' proposal to cap top executives’ pay in latest referendum

Swiss voters today overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to limit the pay of top executives to 12 times the wages of their lowliest employees.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and President Francois Hollande

François Hollande faces growing pressure to sack PM Marc Ayrault

The French president has been left with little room for manoeuvre by collapsing poll ratings

Bulgarian universities in chaos as students occupy 15 campuses in anti-government protest

Occupations are part of wider movement against centre-left government

Martens: 'He made a lasting mark on Europe and beyond,' said the EPP president Joseph Daul

Wilfried Martens: Politician who led nine Belgian governments

Wilfried Martens led nine Belgian governments and the European Union's Christian Democrat group. Regarded as a somewhat grey figure, he was attacked by Margaret Thatcher in her memoirs as weak, thanks in part to the occasion when a minor official from one of Belgium's coalition minority parties, working at a ministry one weekend, apparently refused to sell ammunition to Britain during the Falklands conflict. But elsewhere the Iron Lady expressed her admiration for Martens, and with his wily sense of realpolitik and the art of compromise he survived as prime minister for 12 years, from 1979 to 1991, a year longer than Thatcher herself, with only a brief break in the early 1980s.

Marine Le Pen comments last night on her party's success

Local election victory for Marine Le Pen's National Front raises fears on both left and right

Mainstream groups concerned that National Front could gain more regional council seats

All smiles: With the Bettencourt affair receding, Mr Sarkozy is ready to plan his return

Can Nicolas Sarkozy stage another comeback? Court ruling clears way for former French president to reclaim his throne

Liberated by a ruling last week that spares him the humiliation of a trial for the alleged fleecing of the ailing nonagenarian billionairess Liliane Bettencourt, Nicolas Sarkozy has been "energised", say his friends. Thus reinvigorated, he intends to rise from the political grave next year and begin a three-year campaign to reclaim the Elysée Palace.

Vietnam holds state funeral for General Vo Nguyen Giap

150,000 people lined up to pay respects to the so-called 'Red Napoleon'

Akis Tsochatzopoulos, led from his Athens mansion after his arrest in 2012

Greece's former minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos guilty of money laundering

Tsochatzopoulos' conviction is the latest in a series of corruption cases involving prominent public figures

Soccernomics: Ed Miliband's plans for regulation... explained through the wisdom of the Bundesliga

Football in Germany is a luxury designed for the many, not the few

Latest stories from i100
Career Services

Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 17 April 2015
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England