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Alex Mantekas
Professor Simon
English 103
22 November 2013
Relating Adrift on the Nile to Egyptian Culture
Naguib Mahfouz writes a very adventurous novel, taking place in the 1960’s in a houseboat on the Nile River. Adrift on the Nile is a novel full of sexual banters, and late nights partying in the houseboat, which surprisingly leads to many internal and external conflicts. Mahfouz, himself, was born in Cairo, where the Nile River is located centrally (“Naguib Mahfouz”). However, does Mahfouz being born in Cairo have an effect on the novel? Naguib demonstrates a harsh view on the modern Egyptian society, and he displays many connections in his writing to the modern society. He displays it through the actions and words of the drug-dazed characters’ actions, or showing off Egyptian culture through his detail. According to The American University in Cairo Press, he tends to point out hypocrisy of what people think is “normal”. The goal of Naguib Mahfouz as an author was to display Egyptian social issues and history throughout his books (“Naguib Mahfouz”).

Adrift on the Nile is a book about a civil servant named Anis Zaki, who really has no direction in his life. Zaki is very fed up by the hypocritical ways of the Egyptian society that he lives in. The novel takes place during the Gamal Abdel Nasser era in Egypt. This era took place right after the Egyptian Revolution in 1952 (Tremphor 111). This era in the Egyptian time period can be looked at very differently among people. This time period seemed to flourish with producing stars of theater, film, poetry, television, radio, literature, fine arts, comedy, poetry, and music (“Nasser Era”). Which is a very big connection between the Egyptian culture of that time and the main characters of the book. The main characters that are on the houseboat include a lawyer, a translator, an art critic, an actor, a writer of short stories, and a journalist. Only two of these people do not have a job that is displaying a boom in pop culture throughout this time period in Egypt. However, being a lawyer or a translator and making a good income was very common during this time period. During this time period Egypt’s economy grew at an average rate of nine percent per year for about ten years (“Egypt GDP Growth Rate”). So it is safe to say that Egypt was showing a positive growth in their economy during the Gamal Abdel Nasser era. Mahfouz is being very accurate for their time period, because all of the jobs the character’s have require a good education. Before this era, the rate of illiteracy in Egypt was at a very high rate of 90%. Under the Nasser era, Nasser changed his policy with education. The attendance of universities for higher education increased, and the registration of students in public schools doubled (“Egyptian Culture”). This resulted in millions of Egyptian people leaving the “poor” bracket and moving up into the middle class. Although Nasser seemed to be doing economical wonders for Egypt, the socialist transition seemed to bore many people. They realized having this social welfare made life somewhat a pointless spiral. Since there was so much every citizen was being well nourished by the government, it was becoming too simple to be successful and access daily life necessities. Housing, health-care, and education were now apart of every Egyptian’s life. Mahfouz really pokes with the idea of life being pointless. In the book he harshly looks down on the easy lifestyle of living off of social welfare with a good job. The smoking pipe can somewhat be considered a character. The smoking pipe is aiding them to a pointless lifestyle. They have everything they need in life; all the characters seem to do is just supply the “kif” to the smoking pipe. When they do not have to worry about their success, why would they do anything besides “doing nothing”? One of Anis’ friends on page 48 says, “As long as the floats are sound, and the ropes and chains...
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