NABOKV-L post 0017572, Wed, 7 Jan 2009 06:40:34 -0200

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Re: DN re Nymphet
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Dmitri Nabokov: "I find it gratifying to note the perceptive suggestion that Nabokov's nymphet might not, after all, be an insect."

JM: Nevertheless, the diverse irradiating elements that arise from VN's metaphoric games in "Lolita", concerning "nymphs" and "butterflies", are not at all imprecise - as shown by D.Zimmer ( cf. complete postingfrom January 6, 2009, under "Definitions: Nymphet")

"Now the word 'nymph' is used somewhat loosely in entomology[...] The misunderstanding has arisen from the fact that Webster III has [...] misleading - definition[...] This must be the reason why Karges (1985) argued (p. 45) that "as a metaphor of youth, it [the word nymph] has no reference to Lepidoptera" and was used by Nabokov out of "disingenuousness." [...] In German entomology, 'Nymphe' [...] designates the last pre-imaginal state (whether of the larva or the pupa) which already shows the outlines of the wings the adult will possess. Of this very stage, Nabokov said: ". in certain species, the wings of the pupated butterfly begin to show in exquisite miniature through the wing-cases of the chrysalis a few days before emergence. It is the pathetic sight of an iridiscent future transpiring through the shell of the past, something of the kind I experience when dipping into my books written in the twenties." (Int18 123)* [...] if Lolita is a little nymph, she is a young individual [...] not yet sexually mature. Calling Lolita a nymphet was not being disingenuous at all. It is a very apt metaphor.By the way, Latin pupa means 'girl,' 'doll.' Dolly is a nymph, and the nymphet is a doll."
D. Zimmer: 'Guide to Nabokov's Butterflies and Moths (2001/2003)'.

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* The VN quotation, chosen by D.Zimmer, is striking. Nabokov observes that his "iridiscent future" may be glimpsed through the shell of his past writings. From what I recently learned about insect growth ( only caterpillars add to their physical size and not the metamorphosed butterly in its crystal case?), I understand that VN might be stating that, even while at the "nymphic stage", he was already fully developped, thereby recognizing the constancy of his fundamental insights and, perhaps, how his essence remains independent from its visible, material, written expression....
"And that secret, ta-ta, ta-ta-ta, ta-ta,
But more than that I may not tell you."


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