NABOKV-L post 0005479, Tue, 19 Sep 2000 17:36:43 -0700

Mimicry (fwd)
From: Kurt Johnson <>

As an aside to Jim Mallet's extremely helpful comments about mimicry it
occurred to me that Jim mentioned he had not read Nabokov's Blues. Some
of you who have may take exception to Jim's categorizing VN's position on
mimicry based on The Gift and other views expressed by Nabokov in the
1940's. As you'll note, as has Stephen J. Gould in his essays on the
subject, the Darwinian synthesis, not to mention populations genetics, was
not completely developed during Nabokov's time. We point out evidence in
Nabokov's other works suggested that he was exceedingly open minded, able
to change his opinions (sometimes vehemently), and certainly comprehended
the accepted scientific arguments of his time. We felt that this, and
other evidence we cited, made it just as likely that Nabokov, if having
been exposed to population genetics (as well as many as the elegant
scientific explanations based on natural selection today) would have
expressed agreement with a grand "aha".

We all know Nabokov's penchant for "hidden data" as evidenced not only in
his fiction but in his pioneering expertise in the anatomy of blue
butterflies. Since many modern scientific methods and explanations have
this "magic" within their complex comprehension of nature we cannot
dismiss that Nabokov might well have found such explanations compelling
and "right up his alley". Of course we will never know. Another
fascinating lesson, unpublished (left out of Nabokov's Blues due to space
constraints) was Brian Boyds discovery of the early ms.'s of Nabokov's
"Notes on Neotropical Plebejinae". In these successive drafts, Nabokov
abandoned, suddenly and totally, his belief in the unity of the genus
Hemiargus, the minute he saw new data-- the anatomy of additional species
of what became his genus Echinargus (previously known from a single
species always placed by others, AND Nabokov in Hemiargus).

Again, in the game of "half full" "half empty" "I think we need to be
equally careful in positing what Nabokov might have done from either
extreme. However, we must also remember that Nabokov never published his
book on mimicry and also never included DAR II in The Gift. Does this
perhaps mean he sensed the knowledge in this area for his time was still
too unresolved? Or, is it just my tendency to always defend his
science? Who knows. I'll send this on to Jim for him to consider also.

Many thanks to Dr. Mallet for these very helpful comments. This matter
needed to be addressed by someone who is truly an up-to-date expert in