In Memoriam - Carla Grissmann

By Cornucopia | February 28, 2011

Carla Grissmann at work in the National Museum, Kabul, 1995 (centre) Istanbul Arts Diary and Cornucopia are deeply saddened to hear that Carla Grissmann, who was profiled by Maureen Freely in Cornucopia 24, died at home in London on 15 February. She will probably be best known to our readers as the author of Dinner of Herbs, her classic account of several months spent living in a small Anatolian village during 1968-9. However, this was only a small part of a very rich life, one which took her from New York (where she was born) to London via Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her appetite whetted by glimpses of rural North African life, Grissmann found herself in Uzak Köy in central Anatolia, a hamlet which at that time could only be reached on foot or donkey. Forced to leave by a law which prohibited foreigners from living anywhere classed as a hamlet, she was given only three days to pack up and say her goodbyes.

While this would probably be enough adventure for most, this was only the beginning for Grissmann. After a spell back in New York, she moved to Afghanistan, where she stayed until the political situation forced her to leave in 1978. The experience of exile from a second adopted home made her revisit her memories of the first, and this provided the impetus for the publication of Dinner of Herbs. In spite of the upheaval, she continued to provide invaluable help in preserving that country's extraordinary cultural heritage; without her, many of the pieces in the upcoming British Museum exhibition on Afghanistan might well have been lost to the militias and the black market. On top of this invaluable work, she helped Afghan refugees in Pakistan, worked for the Asia Foundation and had articles featured in publications such as the Encyclopaedia Iranica and Museum International.

Explorer, writer, curator extraordinaire: Grissmann was all these things, and more besides. She will be sorely missed by very different people all over the world, as evinced by the many emotional tributes which have appeared since the news of her passing. As Robert Knox, former Keeper at the British Museum's Asia Department, put it: "She is remembered as a delightful and charming friend by her many close companions, cultivated, exotic, easy and full of love and good humour. She will be much missed." Carla Grissmann, 1928-2011.

Tagged afghanistan, asia foundation, british museum, carla grissmann, dinner of herbs, encyclopaedia iranica, kabul, turkey
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