Euphoric State University, with its whitestone, sundrenched campus, and England's damp red-brick University of Rummidge have an annual exchange scheme. Normally the exchange passes without concern. But when Philip Swallow swaps with Professor Zapp the Fates play a hand, and the two academics find themselves enmeshed in a spiralling involvement on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Nobody is immune: students, colleagues, even wives are swapped as the tension increases. Finally, the cat is let out of the bag with a flourish that surprises even the author himself. 'A magnificent comic novel' Guardian 'Not since Lucky Jim has such a funny book about academic life come my way' Sunday Times Mrs. Swallow, peering at the bookshelves, gave a sceptical grunt. Morris, drawing on his cigar, examined her with curiosity. It was difficult to tell what manner of woman was hidden beneath the woollen headscarf, the huge shapeless fur coat, the thick zippered boots. All that could be seen was a round, unremarkable face with rosy cheeks, a red-tipped nose and the hint of a double chin. The red nose was evidently the result of a cold, for she kept sniffing discreetly and dabbing at it with a Kleenex. He went over to the bookshelves. 'So you didn't go over to Euphoria with your husband?' 'No' 'Why was that?' The look she gave him couldn't have been more hostile if he had enquired what brand of sanitary towels she used. 'There were a number of personal reasons,' she said. 'Yeah, and I bet you were one of them, honey,' said Zapp, but only to himself. Aloud he said: 'What's the name of the author?' 'He couldn't remember. It's a book he bought second-hand, years ago, off a sixpenny stall. He thinks it has a green cover.' 'A green cover...' Morris ran his index finger over the row of books. 'Mrs Swallow, may I ask you a personal question about your husband?' She looked at him in alarm. 'Well, I don't know. It depends...' 'You see that cupboard over your head? In that cupboard there are one hundred and fifty-seven tobacco cans. All the same brand. I know how many there are because I counted them. They fell on my head one day.' 'They fell on your head? How?' 'I just opened the cupboard and they fell on my head.' A ghost of a smile hovered on Mrs. Swallow's lips. 'I hope you weren't hurt?' 'No, they were empty. But I'm curious to know why your husband collects them.' 'Oh, I don't suppose he collects them. I expect he just can't bear to throw them away. He's like that with things. Is that all you wanted to know?' 'Yeah, that's about all.' He was puzzled why a man who used so much tobacco bought in tiny little cans instead of the huge one-pound canisters like the ones Luke Hogan kept on his desk, but thought this would be too personal for Mrs. Swallow. 'The book doesn't seem to be here,' she said with a sigh. 'And I must be going, anyway.' 'I'll look for it.' 'Oh, please don't bother. I don't supposed its all that important. I'm sorry to have been such a nuisance.' 'You're welcome. I don't have too many visitors to tell you the truth.' 'Well, its nice to have met you, Professor Zapp. I hope you'll enjoy your stay in Rummidge. If Philip were here I'd like to ask you round for dinner one evening, but as it is...you understand.' She smiled regretfully. 'But if your husband was here, I wouldn't be,' Morris pointed out. Mrs Swallow looked nonplussed. She opened her mouth a number of times, but no words came out. At last she said, 'Well, I musn't keep you any longer,' and abruptly departed, closing the door behind her. 'Uptight bitch,' Morris muttered. Little as he coveted her company, he hungered for a home-cooked meal. He was tiring rapidly of TV dinners and Asian restaurants, which was all Rummidge seemed to offer the single man.