Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020703, Thu, 9 Sep 2010 23:06:07 -0300

Fw: [NABOKV-L] Alfin, Shade
Matt Roth: Phanes, insomuch as he is winged, may himself resemble a butterfly--thus the conjecture regarding the genus name. I wonder, however, how Kinbote, who knew very little about butterflies, would have known this altogether obsolete entomological variation on Vanessa. Doesn't this require a deeper knowledge than we're used to seeing in Kinbote?
Matt 2: I noticed one other opposition today that I somehow missed. John Shade is the product of Samuel Shade and Caroline Lukin. If Kinbote is right that Lukin comes from Luke (meaning light-giver), then Shade is the product of dark and light, or night and day (or Nattochdag even). Could this be more of a hint at his double nature?
Matt 3: Shades lines 269-271:
Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,
My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest...

JM: In Kinbote's note to line 270 he recognizes that "the 'Red Admirable' is one of the few butterflies I happen to be familiar with" - and it answers in part one of the questions raised by Matt ( Kinbote's lack of lepideropterical expertise). In this same note CK indicates lines 993-995 (where he refers the reader back to notes to line 270)
In its last paragraph he observes that there is a "whiff of Swift in some of my notes". Perhaps this iteration derives from his description of "The Red Admirable feasting on oozy plums and,m once, on a dead rabbit." ( I once read that butterflies are quite fond of dumps and rotten carcasses...)
When the butterfly appears (figured, caricatured) terms like "doom" and "gradual" may appear, or some of the adventures of Gradus are interspersed with other informations ( as mentioning that the designation as Admirable was "degraded" to Admiral). Anyway, at times Kinbote doesn't seem to be very appreciative of this butterfly.

The Index points to 270, 408,470,949,993. In note 408 ("a male hand") the Vanessa appears at the end of a long note ("a heraldic butterfly volant en arriere, sable, a bend gules" ). Later, in Line 470 ("Negro"), a Vanessa is an example of the lawful colors in "the geranium bar of a scalloped wing" In Line 949 ("and all the time") there's the tie Gradus is wearing ("imitation silk, color chocolate brown, barred with red."). For line 993 ("A dark Vanessa") Kinbote devotes himself to the Vanessa, as also Shade's corresponding verses refer to it twice, and in the same manner, as a "dark Vanessa." CK's other entry refers to verse 470 when "A jovial Negro raised his trumpet.Trk."

With the exception of the "chocolate brown" tie, all the other references return us to "dark" and "negro." The upper side of a Red Admirable has a different coloring from its ventral side. The red bar is seen on the upperside, the other side is chocolate brown but has no heraldic red crossings. The "dark" dimension ( or "negro" link) could be just an accidental clue. However, when Nabokov mentions Brueghel's painting ( is it in "Ada"?), there is a comment about a distortion due to the inversion of the upper and lower sides of the insect, to bring out its aesthetic appeal instead of the truly entomological depiction.

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