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Adrift on the Nile [Paperback]

Naguib Mahfouz
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1994
A stunning novel by the widest-read Arab writer currently published in the U.S. The age of Nasser has ushered in enormous social change, and most of the middle-aged and middle-class sons and daughters of the old bourgeoisie find themselves trying to recreate the cozy, enchanted world they so dearly miss. One night, however, art and reality collide--with unforeseen circumstances.

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Product Description

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From 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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahfouz charms the Nile! Aug. 11 2002
Format:Paperback
Winning the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1988) certainly didn't hurt him any, and
now Naguib Mahfouz has become a house-hold name (for the literati, at least). When
one reads a Prize-winner, one expects substance and style, and Mahfouz, if his
translators are honest, certainly seems worthy of the Swedish honor. In "Adrift on the
Nile," nihilism is the word, as a group of like minded intellectuals gather nightly on a
houseboat moored on the famous river where they question anything that can be
questioned--"but no answers," they claim. "There are never any answers," as they call
into account any topic brought up. It is a "din in iniquity," for sure, as good Egyptian
kif (and a well-stoked pipe) help to bring out their curiousity cum intellect. That is,
until, toward the end of this short novel, the group takes a ride out into the desert
where a disaster happens. It's Jay Gatsby, final chapter, of course.
Mahfouz is compared to Proust, Camus, Salinger, and an introspective Hemingway,
and justifiably so. Hailed as the "widest-read Arab writer currently published in the
U.S.," Mahfouz has certainly wielded his own influence among international readers
since the '88 Prize; alas, it seems it took the impact of this award for his books to
achieve their circulation, but that doesn't diminish his themes, his philosophies, his
impact on both socially significant issues and modern literature.
"Adrift on the Nile" reads fast and it is short; yet it packs a punch that seems to score
to the very soul. The houseboat literally becomes a ship of fools, adrift on the
Sargasso Sea, headed into the Bermuda triangle. Existentialists will love this one.
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Prize-winning? April 21 2002
Format:Paperback
This is the third book that I've read by Mahfouz. I believe it will be the last. I started reading him because he is, after all, a Nobel Prize-winning author. I couldn't figure out why after reading "Respected Sir" or "The Search" and I'm still not sure after "Adrift on the Nile". However, this last book was the best of the three and you might want to read it and judge for yourself. It's short and won't take long to read. I found it surprizing to read about such a decadent group of individuals partaking of their illegal substances in the middle of Cairo. The basic plot, as I understood it, has to do with examining the reactions of artistic intelligentia with cold hard reality. How do people who search for "Truth" handle the truth? We'll at least he didn't drag it out. I'm not sure why Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize but I'm through trying to find out.
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Adrift on the Nile Aug. 6 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A sort of Eqyptian Bartelby the Scrivener meets Brian de Palma. The book portrays a group of overeducated and generally understimulated, underemployed professionals who meet nightly in a hookah ritual that seems to roll on like the everpresent Nile until the one night when an outing changes things forever. The book marvelously conveys modern aimlessness, ennui, and the haunting presence of the past. Short, but depressing.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars captivating and intriguing book Aug. 19 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I truly enjoyed this book. I'd actually rate it 8.5 on the 1-10 scale. The passion and readability of Adrift on the Nile led me to other works of Mafouz, all of which provide the unique entertainment experience that comes only from a mesmerizing novel . Being such a short book, Adrift on the Nile is impossible to put down once started
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahfouz charms the Nile! Aug. 11 2002
By Billy J. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Winning the Nobel Prize for literature (in 1988) certainly didn't hurt him any, and
now Naguib Mahfouz has become a house-hold name (for the literati, at least). When
one reads a Prize-winner, one expects substance and style, and Mahfouz, if his
translators are honest, certainly seems worthy of the Swedish honor. In "Adrift on the
Nile," nihilism is the word, as a group of like minded intellectuals gather nightly on a
houseboat moored on the famous river where they question anything that can be
questioned--"but no answers," they claim. "There are never any answers," as they call
into account any topic brought up. It is a "din in iniquity," for sure, as good Egyptian
kif (and a well-stoked pipe) help to bring out their curiousity cum intellect. That is,
until, toward the end of this short novel, the group takes a ride out into the desert
where a disaster happens. It's Jay Gatsby, final chapter, of course.
Mahfouz is compared to Proust, Camus, Salinger, and an introspective Hemingway,
and justifiably so. Hailed as the "widest-read Arab writer currently published in the
U.S.," Mahfouz has certainly wielded his own influence among international readers
since the '88 Prize; alas, it seems it took the impact of this award for his books to
achieve their circulation, but that doesn't diminish his themes, his philosophies, his
impact on both socially significant issues and modern literature.
"Adrift on the Nile" reads fast and it is short; yet it packs a punch that seems to score
to the very soul. The houseboat literally becomes a ship of fools, adrift on the
Sargasso Sea, headed into the Bermuda triangle. Existentialists will love this one.
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Egyptian 'Betrayal of the scholars'. Sept. 6 2002
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Intellectuals gather every evening on a boat for drug and sex parties. One of them writes a play with the members of the group as main characters. Their common attitude: flight for reality, nihilism and defeatism. The fervour after the Nasser revolution is gone: "Revolutions are planned by cunning foxes, fought by the brave and won by the cowards."
But ultimately they are confronted with reality when one of them kills a person in a car accident and flees. Will the name of the culprit be revealed to the police? The group falls apart.

Mahfouz punches Samuel Beckett and his 'theatre of the absurd' K.O. when he cleverly remarks that Beckett filed a complaint against an editor who failed to fulfil his contract. His plays may be absurd, but not the royalties. It was all just a pose.

Indeed, more a book for Egyptian readers, but also with a universal theme: don't shun your responsibilities.

Highly recommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adrift on the Nile Aug. 5 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A sort of Eqyptian Bartelby the Scrivener meets Brian de Palma. The book portrays a group of overeducated and generally understimulated, underemployed professionals who meet nightly in a hookah ritual that seems to roll on like the everpresent Nile until the one night when an outing changes things forever. The book marvelously conveys modern aimlessness, ennui, and the haunting presence of the past. Short, but depressing.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars captivating and intriguing book Aug. 18 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I truly enjoyed this book. I'd actually rate it 8.5 on the 1-10 scale. The passion and readability of Adrift on the Nile led me to other works of Mafouz, all of which provide the unique entertainment experience that comes only from a mesmerizing novel . Being such a short book, Adrift on the Nile is impossible to put down once started
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Master Writer Jan. 22 2012
By john arnold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A short novel that can be read fairly quickly. It took me into a different world. A group of interesting unusual characters in Cairo, Egypt. Takes place almost entirely on a houseboat docked on the Nile, owned by one of the characters, which is the site of nightly parties centered around getting high on a drug called kief (which is smoked in a waterpipe). The group of friends are bohemian types, mostly, and their coversations are funny, stimulating, entertaining, at times intellectual. Characters include an artist, film actor, a couple of writers, and a couple of them have less glamorous occupations like civil servant or lawyer, (and maybe one of the women is a housewife? Can't remember). All are not from the same class of people, making their group more diverse. It is a close-knit circle of friends, both men and women, who know each other very well (some are sleeping together, but it's pretty casual), and they are always kidding each other. They are devoted to the hedonism of smoking the pipe. Takes place in the sixties. Despite the fame of the actor, writer, etc., it is not any kind of high society atmosphere. It's regular and down-to-earth--private parties on a houseboat with a group of close friends. The human qualities of the people come out. Unusual story, beautiful writer.
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