NABOKV-L post 0004169, Thu, 10 Jun 1999 19:36:15 -0700

Subject
Re: Dieter Zimmer & the Amur Hawkmoth (fwd)
Date
Body
In his meticulous and most welcome summary of the Nabokov
exhibition in Boston, Ryan Asmussen notes an Amur hawkmoth [Smerinthus
tremulae amurensis Staudinger] and asks "Didn't this bat about Nabokov's
screen in Bend Sinister?"
According to Dieter E. Zimmer's delightful compilation of
butterflies in Nabokov's works, the Amur hawkmoth appears on page 156 of
Speak, Memory. Zimmer says "it whirs over lakes and rivers, dipping
swallow-like to drink." He gives its range as central and northern Russia
and Manchuria. Nabokov also mentions the Amur hawkmoth in the 1920 paper
cited in Item 41 at the exhibition and in another paper, "Sphingids over
Water", published in 1947.
For those unfamiliar with Zimmer's work, here are a few details.
The scholar, who lives in Hamburg, says he became interested in Nabokov's
butterflies when he translated Speak, Memory into German and subsequently
edited the 25-volume Rowohlt edition of the works. He appears to have
sleuthed for years in the world's libraries and collections of lepidoptera
to track down every butterfly mentioned, even those described but not given
a name. He also compiles the butterflies named by Nabokov, the butterflies
named in honor of Nabokov, even lepidoptera mentioned in uncollected
interviews. There are also summaries of the scientific papers and excerpts
from descriptions by Nabokov of his lepidopteral methods and thoughts.
Finally, there is an excellent introduction to the principles of naming
species, illustrating Nabokov's pernickety interest in taxonomy.
The whole, 145 pages long, appeared in _Les papillons de Nabokov_
edited by Michel Sartori, Musee cantonal de Zoologie, Lausanne, 1993, 201
p. (Litterae Zoologicae, vol. 1, ISBN 2-9700051-0-7). The book also
contains an account of Nabokov's last butterfly collection, now at the
cantonal museum, and a catalog of the 195 species in it. Zimmer's work is
in English, the rest in French. I have spent many pleasant hours with the
book.
Incidentally, about 12 frames of the Lausanne butterflies,
beautifully mounted, are on display at the little Musee du Vieux-Montreux
through the summer. The museum is also publishing, or has published, a book
entitled "Nabokov et Montreux, entre ecriture et papillons". A further
dozen or so frames of the Lausanne butterflies are in the Munich travelling
exhibition, along with hundreds of family documents, books, photographs and
even VN's beautiful chess set (Staunton, 1898). It was in the splendid
upstairs salon of the Montreux Palace Hotel for the month of April, but has
moved on to autres rives. I noticed that Antonio, the head barman at the
Palace, has two signed photographs in his little pantry behind the bar: VN
and Michael Jackson.

Cheers.

Paul Montgomery
Lausanne, Switzerland
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EDITOR's NOTE. Dieter Zimmer's butterfly book published by the museum in
Lausanne is indeed a delight. I can provide information on obtaining a
copy. More importantly, however, I would mention that Dieter Zimmer has
self-published a much expanded and handsomely color-illustrated
version called A GUIDE to NABOKOV's BUTTERFLIES and MOTHs. It may be
sampled on ZEMBLA.