mahfouz: yeah-eh


Egyptians have a wonderful variety of nonverbal expressions. My favorite is the exclamation, “yeah-eh,” with a stress on the “eh,” which is roughly synonymous with “wow!” And as with “wow” there is something boyishly sincere about saying “yeah-eh,” although Egyptians of all ages do it. Toward the end of our night at the Sheraton one of Mahfouz’s friends related, at full volume, a conversation he had with an old-timer from the film industry. They were trying to decide who was the best screenwriter of all time. During the fifties and sixties Mahfouz wrote many scripts for the great Egyptian director Salah Abu Seif. Everybody could see where this story was headed, but the friend drew it out. Who do you think this old-timer said was the greatest ever, he shouted? Was it x, y, or z? Mahfouz was silent, not even indicating he had heard the question. Well, it wasn’t any of those guys. The greatest ever, according to this old-timer (and he would know), was … Naguib Mahfouz! Mahfouz’s eyebrows shot up over the rims of his dark glasses. “Yeah-eh!” he exclaimed, genuinely surprised.

more from n+1 here.