Saturday,17 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Saturday,17 November, 2018
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Louis Greiss (1928-2018) Household Greiss

Household Greiss
Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Monday veteran journalist and critic Louis Greiss passed away at the age of 90. Born in 1928 in Abu Tig, Assuit, Greiss was one of a handful of household names in journalism. 

In a profile of him written by Fayza Hassan that appeared in Issue 313 of Al-Ahram Weekly, Hassan writes that Greiss’s “uncle called him Reuter when he was a little boy, because whenever little Louis heard something he considered of consequence he would tear down the street, stopping at the house of each one of the Greiss relatives – and there were many – to relate the incident: ‘I made it my business to find out what was going on. Once I found out, I felt it was my duty to share the information with as many people as possible.’

“When he was not disseminating news, Louis enjoyed walking in funerals. Whenever the church bell tolled, announcing a death, he would hurry to the church and take his place within the procession following the deceased, whom he did not know, all the way to the cemetery, crying with the family. ‘I don’t know why, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of funerals in those days.’

“For some reason, Greiss chose to join the journalism club. He remained at the Faculty of Science for two years, but somehow he did not feel at home there. One day, he asked Fawzi (the dean of the faculty), how one went about becoming a journalist. Fawzi suggested the American University in Cairo, and Greiss needed no further encouragement. He enrolled in 1951.” He studied journalism and literature at the American University in Cairo and graduated in 1955. 


Household Greiss

“He was told that Al-Ahram was hiring students who had graduated top of their class, but instead of the smooth career he was led to believe awaited him, doors now began to close in his face. When he went to Al-Ahram to apply for a job, he was told the organization no longer took in graduates. 

“He went back to the AUC and joined Development Service Department, made an unsuccessful attempt to work for Al-Gomhouria, and worked for a while at Dar Al-Hilal, sticking maquettes on large sheets of cardboard. It was as close as he had ever been to real journalism and, in a way, he did not mind the job. 

“Fate once more changed his course when he met artist Hassan Fouad, who offered him a position at Rose Al-Youssef organisation.

“He did not hesitate and met Ahmed Bahaaeddin, the future editor-in-chief of the new magazine Rose Al-Youssef was launching Sabah Al-Kheir. Bahaaeddin offered him a job reporting for the new publication. Greiss’s dream was finally becoming reality, he had become a journalist. 

“Greiss had applied for a scholarship to study for a year in the US. He had made third place, and quickly forgot the whole thing. While he was happily settling down at Sabah Al-Kheir, he received a letter from the AUC. The first two candidates had declined the scholarship, it was now offered to him. Soon Greiss was enrolled in Ann Arbour, Michigan. He by-lined the articles he sent to Sabah Al-Kheir ‘Louis Greiss, reporting from Washington.’

“On his return, he became managing editor of Sabah Al-Kheir, ‘and in 1968 I became co-editor-in-chief, together with Mamdouh Al-Saadani.’ Later he became the sole editor-in-chief of the magazine from 1980 to 1989 when he retired. He was a member of the Supreme Press Council.”

He married the late actress Sanaa Gamil, a love story that was known to circles close to them, but what was not known is that when tshe asked what was delaying their marriage, he answered that there were some things to be done, he would have to convert to Islam, but to his surprise she answered that she was Christian! Their marriage lasted for 40 years; she died in 2002. 

“He saw himself as a political commentator ‘when I came back from the States, I felt I had matured enough to really get my career going, and I wrote what I considered my first article of consequence. Abdel-Nasser was going to deliver a speech the following day. At the time every newspaper had a censor who read all the articles before publication. He called me in. “I know that you have come back, and I am sure that your mistake was made was made in good faith, so I will keep our little conversation a secret. In your article, you are commenting on what should or should not be done and giving us your personal opinion. You only required to listen carefully to the Rais’s speech, then bring out its main points, praising them. We are not interested in anything else.

“Greiss took up translation, 500 short stories became accessible to the public in Arabic translation, thanks to his efforts. He had discovered that he could always select foreign short stories which conveyed a message with which he agreed. 

“‘I liked Abdel-Quddous’s writings and tried to use his technique to decide on the topics I would address in my stories.’”

In addition to his journalism, Greiss wrote a number of short stories like Al-Hob wal Mal (Love and Money) and Hadha Ma Yahdouth Lel Nas (That What Happens to People), and he translated the play The Price by Arthur Miller. 

In 1990 he was a participant of the preparations meetings with Chairman of Board of Al-Ahram Organisation Ibrahim Nafie before the launch of Al-Ahram Weekly; he was the one to suggest the name. 

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