Nancy Hatch Dupree, Scholar of Afghanistan, Is Dead at 89

“There is a line which I learned from her, and I added it in the calendar when I was the head of the National Museum, and we later inscribed it on a stone at the museum,” Mr. Massoudi said. “The line reads: A nation stays alive if its culture stays alive.”

President Ashraf Ghani, who knew the couple for decades, first crossing paths with them as a young scholar of anthropology, called Mrs. Dupree “a great servant of Afghan history and culture.” Hugo Llorens, the top United States diplomat to Kabul, said that “her love for this country and dedication to its culture and history will be forever remembered.”

Nancy Hatch was born on Oct. 3, 1927, in Cooperstown, N.Y., and grew up in what was then the kingdom of Travancore in British India, now the state of Kerala in India. Both her parents were involved in Asian cultures; her father, who was close to the maharaja, or ruler, of Travancore, later advised the governments of India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on development matters, while her mother studied Indian theater.

She attended high school in Mexico, graduated from Barnard College and received a master’s degree in Chinese art from Columbia University. After graduation, she returned to Asia, joining her father in working for Unesco.

While at Columbia, she met Alan D. Wolfe, an aspiring diplomat with New York roots. They married in Ceylon, and she joined him when the Foreign Service posted him to Iraq, Pakistan and then to Kabul, in 1962.

There, she and Mr. Dupree, who was also married, began an affair. To top off the scandal, the spouses they divorced ended up marrying each other.

(How the affair began remains unclear, as James Verini’s article about the Duprees, “Love and Ruin,” which won a National Magazine Award in 2015, points out. The article also notes that Mr. Wolfe was in fact the C.I.A. station chief in Afghanistan, under the guise of working as the United States Embassy’s cultural attaché.)


The hilltop restaurant in Kabul where Mrs. Dupree married Louis Dupree in the 1960s. His ashes are buried just around the corner, and hers will be laid to rest there as well.

Mujib Mashal/The New York Times

The Duprees were at the center of the social scene in Kabul for years, until they were kicked out by the communist government on suspicion of being spies. They settled in Peshawar, Pakistan, then the hub of the Afghan…

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