Nabokov's Gift ...
"Sandy P. Klein" <>
Sun, 26 Aug 2007 10:36:55 -0400

boston review current issue cover

Nabokov’s Gift

Roger Boylan

When I was a boy in Geneva, sometime in the 1960s, a schoolmate of mine belonged to a society of junior lepidopterists. A couple of times a year, under the guidance of mature butterfly experts, he and his fellow enthusiasts went off to capture papillons in the alpine meadows above Montreux, at the opposite end of Lake Geneva. On one such expedition the guide was a stout, bald Russian gentleman in shorts and a parka who, despite being in his mid-60s, bounded ahead of the pack, brandishing his net and firing off exhortations and butterfly lore in accented but fluent English and French. When the hunt was over, he abruptly took his leave with a cheery “Au revoir, tout le monde.” His name I heard for the first time as, approximately, Monsieur Nabucco. He was, said my friend, one of the world’s leading experts on butterflies. He was also, he added in awe, the author of a really dirty book.

I was only about 13 at the time, and I’d never heard of Monsieur Nabucco, but I’d heard of his dirty book. It was called Lolita, and . . . .

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