BOOK REVIEW / In brief: Adrift on the Nile - Naguib Mahfouz, trs Frances Liardet: Doubleday, pounds 13.99

Escaping from the reality of life in Nasser's Egypt, Anis Zaki and his friends gather every evening to smoke kif on his Nile houseboat. Into this absurdist 'paradise' comes the serious-minded journalist, Samara, as determined to change the men as to find purpose in her own life. Tensions and erotic complications ensue. Anis's kif-fuelled fantasies add poetry to the philosophical arguments, until reality intervenes, the group disintegrates and paradise is transformed into hell. This elegant and intellectually satisfying novel, first published in 1966, is more disturbing now than when it was written.