Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024963, Fri, 3 Jan 2014 09:40:45 -0200

Re: SIGHTING: VN the Lepidopterist in NAUTILUS, from B. Boyd
B. Boyd: Here’s a story on Nabokov the lepidopterist: not as accurate as it could be, but better than it might have been:

Jansy Mello: I extracted these lines from "Speak Butterfly."
"Butterflies were so entwined with the novel that Nabokov celebrated an especially important find—discovering the first known female of Lycaeides sublivens above Telluride, Colo. in the summer of 1951—by making the town the site of the novel’s final scene."
This is why I was suddenly curious about the meaning of the Latin word "sublivens".While trying to find a translation (I didn't reach it, though) I came to one interesting reference to Nabokov, emphasizing Véra's participation in her husband's creations. I'd read Stacy Schiff's Pullitzer winning biography of "Véra" a long time ago and now it is difficult for me to recollect it well enough to compare Alexandra Popoff's instances to S.Schiff's research and interpretation (I didn't manage to open the full quote from Véra's angry lines against Pasternak either).

Here is the [SIGHTING]
The Wives: The Women Behind Russia's Literary Giants
Por Alexandra Popoff

"After days of hunting among rocks and lavender, he caught the first female Lycaeides sublivens, "this extremely rare goddaugther of mine". He would
describe his triumph in a poem, "A Discovery."* 'I found it and I named it, being versed in taxonomic Latin; thus became godfather to an insect and its first describer - and I want no outher fame.' Nabokov's butterfly passion seems related to Humbert's desire to possess Lolita, a nymphet with a sensual Spanish name."

"Nabokov once said he would be remembered for Lolita and his translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, projects to which Véra contributed. Translating the
poem was her idea: she told Nabokov that if the existing English versions did not satisfy him, he should try making his own."

"The couple's success was soured when a novel by another Russian writer began to compete. Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, released in America in September 1958, four weeks after Lolita, was soon outselling it. Clearly jealous, the Nabokov referred to Pasternak's novel as "trash" and portrayed the author as a "Bolshevik". They claimed that Pasternak's abuse at home was fabricated and that Zhivago was a Soviet plant. Véra complained to a friend that Lolita was "squeezed out by that pitiful and miserable 'book' by the lowly..."


* "A Discovery" (A.P) and "On Discovering a Butterfly"
I found it in a legendary land
all rocks and lavender and tufted grass,
where it was settled on some sodden sand
hard by the torrent of a mountain pass.

The features it combines mark it as new
to science shape and shade — the special tinge,
akin to moonlight, tempering its blue,
the dingy underside, the checkered fringe.

My needles have teased out its sculptured sex;
corroded tissues could no longer hide
that priceless mote now dimpling the convex
and limpid teardrop on a lighted slide.

Smoothly a screw is turned; out of the mist
two ambered hooks symmetrically slope,
or scales like battledores of amethyst
cross the charmed circle of the microscope.

I found it and I named it, being versed
in taxonomic Latin; thus became
godfather to an insect and its first
describer — and I want no other fame.

Wide open on its pin (though fast asleep)
and safe from creeping relatives and rust,
in the secluded stronghold where we keep
type specimens it will transcend its dust.

Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss,
poems that take a thousand years to die
but ape the immortality of this
red label on a little butterfly.

- Vladimir Nabokov


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