Adrift on the Nile

Adrift on the Nile

by Naguib Mahfouz
     
 

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First published in 1966, Naguib Mahfouz’s Adrift on the Nile is an atmospheric novel that dramatizes the rootlessness of Egypt’s cosmopolitan middle class. Anis Zani is a bored and drug-addicted civil servant who is barely holding on to his job. Every evening he hosts a gathering on a houseboat on the Nile, where he and a motley group of cynical

Overview

First published in 1966, Naguib Mahfouz’s Adrift on the Nile is an atmospheric novel that dramatizes the rootlessness of Egypt’s cosmopolitan middle class. Anis Zani is a bored and drug-addicted civil servant who is barely holding on to his job. Every evening he hosts a gathering on a houseboat on the Nile, where he and a motley group of cynical and aimless friends share a water pipe full of kif, a mixture of tobacco and marijuana. When a young female journalist—an “alarmingly serious person”—joins them and begins secretly documenting their activities, the group’s harmony starts disintegrating, culminating in a midnight joyride that ends in tragedy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A keen sense of life's futility and meaninglessness gnaws at Anis Zani, a pot-smoking civil servant in Cairo and the cultured but dazed protagonist of Mahfouz's probing novel of spiritual emptiness, first published in 1966. Anis, an addict who can scarcely keep his job, shares a houseboat on the Nile--and a water pipe full of hemp--with other bored, disaffected Cairenes, among them an opportunistic art critic, a womanizing actor, a woman who has deserted her husband, a laid-back writer and a cynical lawyer. A spirited female journalist joins them and critiques their nihilism in her notebook, which Anis steals--an absurd act without a clear motive. In drug-induced hallucinations he encounters pharaohs, Napoleon, Nero, and his wife, who died 20 years earlier, as did their small daughter. The houseboat revelers take a midnight automotive joyride, which turns to tragedy with a hit-and-run accident; guilt over their collective vow of silence tears the group apart. Nobel laureate Mahfouz ( The Cairo Trilogy ) writes hypnotic prose, by turns romantically lyrical and tartly astringent, spiced with ironical allusions to ancient Egypt and classical history, whose grandeur highlights by contrast the rootlessness of modern Egypt's secularized, cosmopolitan middle class. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In Nobel Prize winner Mahfouz's newly translated work, a houseboat on the Nile is a nightly diversion for a small circle of friends. Careers in the arts, business, law, and civil service are forgotten as the waterpipe makes its rounds, the intoxicating kif erasing all sense of responsibility. Anis, the ``master of ceremonies,'' tends the pipe and drifts in his narcotic dreams while the others extol the absurdity of addiction. Their tranquility ends, however, when Samara, a young journalist, comes to study the group. She is the grain of seriousness that irritates them in their escapist shell, and around her swirls a nightly dispute over purpose, duty, love, and morality. A car accident crystallizes the argument, shattering the group as each confronts inescapable responsibility. The houseboat is a consistent metaphor in Mahfouz's writing, the vessel of escape in a complex and changing society. Adrift on the Nile skillfully dissects this metaphor but sacrifices the rich narrative and vibrant life that mark his other works.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385423335
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1994
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
176
Sales rank:
330,207
Product dimensions:
5.15(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.37(d)

Meet the Author

Naguib Mahfouz was born in Cairo in 1911 and began writing when he was seventeen. A student of philosophy and an avid reader, his works range from reimaginings of ancient myths to subtle commentaries on contemporary Egyptian politics and culture. Over a career that lasted more than five decades, he wrote 33 novels, 13 short story anthologies, numerous plays, and 30 screenplays. Of his many works, most famous is The Cairo Trilogy, consisting of Palace Walk (1956), Palace of Desire (1957), and Sugar Street (1957), which focuses on a Cairo family through three generations, from 1917 until 1952. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer in Arabic to do so. He died in August 2006.

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