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Lillian Hellman
B. 6.20.05 New Orleans / D. 6.30.84 Martha’s Vineyard
Cardiac Arrest

1953 / Like wolves my mother and Lillian Hellman swept down on Kabul. Dust clouds the color of saffron preceded them all the way out of their Nuristan stronghold, yellow dust clouds embossed with black patterns cast by the locusts escaping with their young. The people of Kabul trembled and cried out, “Allah help us to appease these terrible women!” The Merciful One then caused ninety-three pairs of hand-tooled Italian leather pumps to appear in a shop window which he erected out of thin air on the northern approach to the city. When my mother and Lillian Hellman reached the enchanted shop, they halted. Three hours later they had selected all but five pairs and loaded them onto their camels. Then they were seen to head back towards Nuristan. Twenty minutes later, having told my mother she’d forgotten her purse by a chair in the shop, Lillian Hellman returned alone. She packed up the last five pairs of shoes for herself and galloped off again; this is the scene captured in the famous Life magazine photograph. Kabul still marks these events with annual feasting.

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