The Lazy Ones follows Cossery's signature style and motive, although there is a slight departure from his other novels. While his other works are set in the slums, The Lazy Ones deals with a semi-influential family. And, it is a family unlike any other Cossery tackled before.
In his other works, Cossery 's characters are poor, wretched beings suffering their lot. In The Lazy Ones, the family is well off - they own a house, have a servant girl, and do not have to work for living. This is where the twist comes in. All of Cossery's work is riddled with revolutionary ideas, albeit a little dated revolutionary ideas. This work is no exception.
For the background, Cossery chose a family who is surviving for generations on an inheritance. Old Hafez, the master of the house, and his three sons, Galal, Rafik, and Serag. Uncle Mustafa, the brother of Old Hafez lives with them because he wasted his part of the inheritance in a marriage with s disreputable woman. Old Hafez never comes out of his room - partly because he dislikes his children, partly because he suffers from hernia, but mostly because he is just lazy. Galal, who is just plain lazy, spends most of his time sleeping, waking up only to take his meals, and even that not frequently. Rafik is also lazy, but he was not always so - once upon a time he was in love with a woman, ventured outside, and wanted to live fully. That is, until Old Hafez explained to him what a woman would do to the peace in the house, which caused Rafik to abandon her and shut himself in the house. Serag, the youngest, is romantically ambitious, but lacks the drive to do anything. Still, he is the star of the drama. Uncle Mustafa acts as a messenger between Hafez and his sons, and as a lightning rod to Rafik's insults. His pride, nevertheless, must yield to his necessities, so he stays in the house with them.
While the rest of the house sleeps, Serag ventures to the outside world. His head is high in the clouds, always considering abandoning the lazy life and seeking a job. His brothers torment him for his ideas, which never come to fruition. Serag often goes out to see a factory that is being built nearby, but he never makes it over there. Used to his lazy life, he does not have the energy to complete the journey and falls short of reaching the factory. One day, after he meets a poor boy whom he pays to accompany him, he finally reaches the factory only to find out the construction has been abandoned and the factory is not yet standing. Serag struggles with his noble ideology of what work is and this unexpected development. Ultimately, he decides to travel to the city to get a job. The house servant Houda, who is intimate with Serag, tries to persuade him to relinquish this idea. When he insists, she agrees to go with him.
In the end, Serag and Houda never reach the city.
The settings in this novel are secondary to the idea of rebellion against the status quo. While most of Cossery's characters are trying to escape hard labor, Serag seeks it, at least in his mind. He despises the sedentary life around him, he despises his brothers, and dreams of noble work. Lacking any work experience, he fails to realize what work really is. Still, he cannot be convinced otherwise. His ideology that work is noble and makes people free is so out of place in the neighborhood where his family is admired for being lazy. People talk of his family; his brother Galal is rumored to sleep a whole month without waking. As a side story, Old Hafez threatens to marry. He hires a go-between to find him a young bride. The go-between spreads further rumors that Old Hafez is diabetic, which only increases his reputation for being noble person.
Serag's revolutionary ideas go hand in hand with Cossery's other novels, in as much as the need for change. Nevertheless, while his other books address social injustice, the ideology here is very proletarian, yet falls short of being communist. Serag has no desire to change the world, take from the rich and give to the poor, or influence anyone else. He just wants to escape his current life, despite the fat that he lacks the endurance to do so, and has no knowledge of what work really is.