NABOKV-L post 0005784, Wed, 28 Feb 2001 18:50:18 -0800

Re: Blues News (fwd)
From: Kurt Johnson <>

It is March 2001, and just as McGraw-Hill is bringing out the paperback edition of Nabokov's Blues (March 15, 2001; ISBN: 0071373306; $16.95), more new Nabokov's Blues have appeared in the scientific literature. Perhaps of most interest in the first wholely new Nabokovian blue, from not South America, but from Asia. With the help of the venerable Zoran Kuzmanovich, editor of Nabokov Studies, this blue is now in print as Plebejus fyodor, after Nabokov's character, Fyodor, in The Gift. This new species is from the Tian-Shan region of North China-- explored by Fyodor's father and dreamed about with relish by the young entomologist. It appeared in what is now "last month" (February) in Folia Entomologica published at the Hungarian Museum of Natural History. Previously, Dr. Zsolt Balint and I had honored Nabokov with two replacement names [new names replacing older, invalid names] in the Asian fauna- one butterfly named Plebejus pilgram and another named Plebejus ardis. But, P. fyodor is wholely new to science. Chinese entomologist Y. F. Hsu discovered P. fyodor on a recent expedition to north China. To name it, much of Nabokov's own work on the Lycaeides complex in Asia had to be sorted out, including ventures back to the British Museum and by locating of singly cited specimens long lost in Nabokov's published lists of "Material Examined". Of course, Nabokov had never seen fyodor, but he mentioned a few things like it and thus his entire "take" on the rest of the Lycaeides group from that region had to be reexamined once again. It was exactly on target. In his etymology for fyodor, Zoran states "Fyodor narrates Nabokov's novel The Gift, a record of his love of Russian literature, his lepidopterist father, butterflies and a young woman named Zina. But it is precisely "under the spell" of butterflies that "something" unfolds in Fyodor's soul and becomes the enchanted means by which Fyodor relives, as if he himself had undertaken them, his missing father's journey's to exotic hunting sites, from Alt
magically multiplied life" and "head and breast filled with an electric agitation". The structure of The Gift strongly suggests that the father's love for butterflies is intimately connected with Fyodor's talents and passionate interests beyond Lepidoptera and thus give us one meaning of the took's title. Fyodor's father's insistence on the "innate" strangeness of human life and his explanation of butterfly mimicry as exceeding the observing powers of the predators Nabokov would later raise to articles of faith in his own aesthestics." Curiously, these latter notes on mimicry still invite controversy and will be subject to some further discussions among Nabokov scholars, particularly at the American Literature Association meetings being held at Harvard in May, 2001. Meantime, each of Brian Boyd, Kurt Johnson and Dieter Zimmer are doing some serious research on the historical contexts of Nabokov's views concerning mimicry.
Another new Nabokovian Blue (again published in Febr. in the Annals of the Hungarian Museum of Natural History by Balint, Johnson and Rev. Eisele of Argentina) is from South America. It honors Nabokov's pioneer work as well. However, it is named for the region of Argentina from which it comes-- jujuyensis ("of Jujuy"). It is the Argentine sister species of Nabokov's now-famed Pseudolucia chilensis, the species from which Nabokov named the genus and the one now known to feed on a poisonous plant and thus anchor a "mimicry ring" of orange-colored Blues. Nabokov was the first to recognize the orange-colored Blues as Blues-by his pioneer anatomical work. The Nabokov butterfly legacy continues to grow. Jeff Edmunds at ZEMBLA has kindly agreed to run a color and bxw illustrated little feature on these new blues. Keep your eye open for it. In addition, a new paper being prepared by Dr. Zsolt Balint and Dubi Benyamini will honor Nabokov with additional new Blues from South America.
One may rather unabashedly continue to mention Nabokov's blues (or Nabokov's Blues). The book was a "Ten Best in Science" for 2000 at The Washington Post, American Library Association, and HMS Beagle (the Bio/Med/Tech website) and an Editors' Choice for 2000 at Booklist, Library Journal and The Seattle Times (if indeed the building is still standing after today's quake!). But more importantly-- more than just relating Nabokov's lepidopterological saga, Nabokov's blues (or Nabokov's Blues) contains an urgent conservation message. SCIENCE called its conservation message "eloquent and compelling". NATURE said Nabokov's story "thoroughly captures the joys and frustrations of taxonomic discovery". Certainly Nabokov himself spoke more than once about both ends of that curious spectrum! Thanks to the Nabokovian "crowd" for your continued interest in this side of the "Master". Certainly without the original interest of Brian Boyd in having me "cross-over" and tell "you-all" what was going on in the science, none of these things would have ever come about. And, Don Johnson has masterfully assembled this "committee" of the Nabokov Society to suggest new butterfly names-- a bunch of which will appear in the eventual new publication by Balint and Benyamini.
Kurt Johnson

illustrations (being sent under separate cover)
black and white illustration of P. fyodor (credit Folia Entomologica)
color illustration of Nabokov's own butterfly inscriptions on the cover of his personal copy of The Gift. (credit the Estate of Vladimir Nabokov)<br clear=all><hr>Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at <a href=""></a><br></p>