Alba Arikha was born and raised in Paris, in an artistic household. Her father was the painter Avigdor Arikha, her mother is the poet Anne Atik. She studied the piano for many years before turning to writing. She completed her BA in comparative literature between the US and Paris, which also included a stint in film scoring, at the Ecole Normale de Musique.
A year in New York working for an art gallery, was fodder for Alba’s first novel, Muse, which she completed after studying for an MFA at Columbia University.
Stories from that collection were published in Open City magazine. One of them, The Yellow Slippers, is part of the 2011 anthology ‘Stories from 20 years of Open City.’
Various of her other stories and articles have also appeared in Tatler magazine, Antique and New Art, the Journal of Art and the Indian Quarterly. Alba’s translations have appeared in the New Republic, the Other Press and Prada. She was also involved in the translation of the French bestseller, ‘Indignez vous!’ by Stephane Hessel, published by Charles Glass books, and is a regular contributor to Spear’s magazine.
During this time, Alba returned to piano composition and recorded a CD of songs based on French poems. After a performance at the Miller’s Academy in 2007, she began writing her own songs, which culminated in an album, ‘Dans les rues de Paris’, available on Amazon and Tune Core. She has performed those songs at the Paradise By Way of Kensal Green, in London, the Theatre de la Vieille Grille, in Paris, and at Roux at the Pembury, as part of the Jazz After Dark evenings, sponsored by Jazz FM.
Alba’s memoir, Major/Minor, was published by Quartet Books, in 2011. It was shortlisted for the 2012 Spear’s Awards, and has been selected among the Best Books of 2012 in the New Yorker. The paperback version became available in 2017.
Major/Minor was published in Italy in February 2013 by Bollati Boringhieri, as ‘Te lo dirò un altra volta, and by Berlin Verlag in Germany, in 2014, as ‘Wörterbuch einer verlorenen welt.’
She has written an opera with her husband, which was performed in August 2013, at the Tête-a-Tête opera festival at the Riverside Studios, in London. The narrative poem on which it is based, ‘Soon,’ was published by CB editions in September 2013.
Her new novel, ‘Where to find me,’ will be published by Alma Books in 2018.
She is a member of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Society of Authors, and was a 2013 fellow at the Santa Maddalena Foundation. She has been a regular contributor to Radio 4, and was included in Pick of the Week. Since 2012, she has been teaching creative writing for various institutions such as First Story, the Royal Academy of Art, and the Chocolate Factory. She has been involved in Guardian masterclasses since 2015, teaching classes on short fiction. In Spring 2017 she was Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University, where she taught a masterclass in non-fiction.
Alba is married to the composer Tom Smail. They live in London with her two children.