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.
A difficult book to rate. I found the narrative in parts vague, but the messages clear.
Perhaps this was not a good choice for me as an introduction to Mahfouz's work. It was written in 1966, and I know little of the time and place described. The characters are distant. Their belief in life's meaningless frustrates me; I want to shake them up, to make them do something. Is that how I was supposed to react? Or was I supposed to agree with them that life is for naught and my ideas, actions, and beliefs do nothing and mean nothing? I'm not sure I know, and that frustrates me too. All in all, it just wasn't the book for me.