Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0006060, Mon, 9 Jul 2001 20:36:31 -0700

Dieter Zimmer's new VN Butterfly Guide
> EDITOR's NOTE. Full order information on this item will be available
> shortly. The note below supercedes Boyd's review of a few days ago.


> Brian Boyd writes:
> In 1995 in Nabokov Studies 2 I reviewed the first version of Dieter E.
> Zimmer's A Guide to Nabokov's Butterflies and Moths (then called
> "Nabokov's
> Lepidoptera: An Annotated Multilingual Checklist"). I rated it an
> immeasurable advance on everything else in the field to date, but also
> noted
> omissions and limitations in presentation. Not only has Zimmer plugged
> the
> few omissions I mentioned, as well as innumerable others no one had
> been
> aware of, he has also thought out carefully and discovered how to
> provide
> whatever readers might need on Nabokov's butterflies.
> The 2001 Guide contains 225% as much material as the first version.
> This
> invaluable Guide, a triumph of selfless scholarship, now contains:
> 1) an introduction to Lepidoptera, to taxonomy and systematics, to
> mimicry,
> and to evolution, and to Nabokov's attitudes to all of these
> 2) catalogues of the taxa named by and for Nabokov, with detailed
> discussions and explanations
> 3) a 190-page alphabetical catalogue of all the butterflies mentioned
> by
> Nabokov in his published work (and occasional unpublished work, like
> his
> 1919 "Dvoe"), from Aaron's Skipper to Zygaenidae. This, the invaluable
> core
> of the volume,
> a) identifies butterflies whether or not Nabokov named them directly
> or only
> implied their identity;
> b) provides an immense amount of fascinating natural lore on hundreds
> of
> species and genera: 4 pages, for instance, on Vanessa atalanta,
> another half
> page on the genus name Vanessa, another two-thirds of a page on
> Cynthia, the
> now superseded name for the genus;
> c) astutely discusses, where appropriate, Nabokov's artistic purposes
> in
> using them in this or that work;
> d) supplies translators with the equivalent popular names in other
> major
> European languages;
> e) establishes the current scientific name, which can change for
> general
> reasons Zimmer discusses under 1) and for specific reasons he explains
> in
> each case.
> 4) a sequential list of all the butterflies in Nabokov's work,
> chronologically by book and then by page, with cross-references to 3).
> This
> enables a reader who encounters a vague reference to some butterfly or
> moth
> on page x of work y to discover its identity, where retrievable, and
> to
> locate all Nabokov's other references to that lepidopteron, and
> Zimmer's
> description and explanation of its place in nature and Nabokov.
> 5) a biographical index of lepidopterists with Nabokov connections:
> those
> whose work he pored over, or referred to, those whom he worked with
> professionally, those who have since worked professionally on his
> butterflies, and so on. This in itself is a considerable and
> fascinating
> achievement.
> 6) an annotated bibliography of Nabokov's scientific papers and
> interviews
> about butterflies
> 7) a species list, allowing a cross-reference to the catalogue (where
> many
> of the generic names under which the butterflies are listed have been
> revised since Nabokov's day)
> 8) an illustrations section, 21 color plates, which includes such
> treasures
> as Nabokov's Butterflies in Art identifications, and, say, the Pear
> Peacock
> from the Elements Room in Florence's Signoria, as identified by
> Lucette;
> illustrations of the species Nabokov has in mind when he writes of
> mimicry
> and crypsis; a photograph of explorer Pratt that Nabokov used for
> Godunov-Cherdyntsev's travels; the Karner Blue, the Albany Pine Bush
> Reserve, and the lupine the butterfly feeds on; and over 120
> butterflies and
> moths of particular signiificance to Nabokov.
> David Sexton, reviewing Nabokov's Butterflies, ended by saying that
> whatever
> your starting point, you would think more of Nabokov after reading the
> book.
> The same is true of Zimmer's Guide.
> I know there are some otherwise gifted Nabokovians who have no
> interest in
> his lepidopterology. For serious Nabokov work, though, you just have
> to know
> it. Remaining aloof from it is as misguided and self-defeating as a
> Russian
> scholar's ignoring the English literary contexts of Nabokov's work, or
> an
> English critic's ignoring his Russian context, Pushkin and all, or an
> English or Russian reader's ignoring his French context. You simply
> have to
> know the Lepidoptera, and Zimmer's Guide is the place where you will
> find
> what you need to know.
> Anyone who teaches Nabokov, and especially anyone who supervises or
> hopes to
> supervise graduate students working on Nabokov, should ensure that
> they have
> their own copy (which even apart from its scholarly value will very
> soon
> become a prize collector's item) and that they order another copy for
> their
> university library: Zimmer, Dieter E. A Guide to Nabokov's Butterflies
> and
> Moths 2001. Hamburg, 2001. ISBN 3-00-007609-3
> Nabokov the commentator on Eugene Onegin, as well as Nabokov the
> researcher
> of "Notes on Neotropical Plebejinae," and Nabokov the author of The
> Gift, "A
> Discovery" and Pale Fire, would have welcomed and applauded, would
> have had
> to wipe away tears of gratitude for, Zimmer's invaluable Guide.