Thursday, December 26, 2013
Nabakov and His Butterflies
Mary Ellen Hannibal discusses the author's fascination with butterflies in Nautilus.
From the piece...
In the autobiography Nabokov recalls the “original event” of his “collecting life” when he made his first butterfly capture at age 7 at Vyra. His governess had tried to kill the insect by locking it up in a wardrobe overnight. In the morning, the persistent butterfly flew out and through the window. Nabokov, recalling this event five decades later, projects himself back into his 7-year-old self, and imagines the butterfly soaring far away—eventually to America.
Though not in the mountains, Vyra was surrounded by aspen groves, in a climate of harsh winters and short summers, and was home to alpine butterfly species. Nabokov pursued similar alpine butterflies throughout his life, taking trips across Europe and the U.S. with his wife Vera, and later their son Dmitri. As his biographer Brian Boyd writes, “the particular kinds of butterflies he concentrated on as a scientist were influenced by his nostalgia.”