Nabokov's Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings

( 2 )


Newly translated works by Nabokov on the twin passions of his life, literature and lepidoptera. A rich array of never-before-seen Nabokovia: novels, stories, poems, autobiography, interviews, diaries, and more, plus scientific and fanciful drawings by Nabokov and photographs of him in the field. The text--the richest and most varied assemblage of Nabokov's writing's available--is arranged chronologically and introduced by Brian Boyd and Robert Michael Pyle
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Newly translated works by Nabokov on the twin passions of his life, literature and lepidoptera. A rich array of never-before-seen Nabokovia: novels, stories, poems, autobiography, interviews, diaries, and more, plus scientific and fanciful drawings by Nabokov and photographs of him in the field. The text--the richest and most varied assemblage of Nabokov's writing's available--is arranged chronologically and introduced by Brian Boyd and Robert Michael Pyle
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Admirers of the great novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) know that collecting and classifying butterflies was for him not so much a hobby as an obsession, especially during the 1940s, when he worked for Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and made important discoveries about the American genera known as Blues. Butterfly-linked images and ideas pervade some of his fiction, and butterfly-collecting expeditions took up much of his free time. Nabokov biographer Boyd and butterfly expert Pyle team up to offer a gigantic compendium of butterfly-relevant Nabokoviana. Reprinted here are draft reminiscences later revised for the autobiography Speak, Memory; the 1920 technical paper "A Few Notes on Crimean Lepidoptera"; selected parts of the later scientific and technical work; numerous poems with butterfly-related lines, some in English, some translated from Russian; Nabokov's last short story, "The Admirable Anglewing"; excerpts from letters and interviews; notes for the New Yorker ("Incidentally, pinching the thorax is a much simpler way of dispatching a butterfly") and segments of Nabokov's lecture notes; and lepidopteran passages from the novels and stories. Among the previously unpublished works, one standout is the 36-page essay (originally in Russian) that Nabokov meant to use as the afterword to The Gift. Also present are the surviving fragments of Nabokov's never-completed descriptive catalogue, Butterflies of Europe. Boyd and Pyle contribute separate, informative and sometimes parallel introductions. Not even a Nabokov-obsessed taxonomist would want to read this collection from start to finish: it is, though, a volume devotees will delight to browse in and scholars will want to own. 30 color and 30 b&w illus. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Apr.) FYI: For more information on Nabokov's Butterflies, see Book News, Feb. 28. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The recent publication of Kurt Johnson and Steven L. Coates's Nabokov's Blues (LJ 10/15/99) brought to light Nabokov's expertise in the study of butterflies. The distinction of this new volume is that it contains never-before-seen writings by Nabokov on the subject. The book includes poems, letters, diary entries, interviews, and technical articles that combine the author's passions for science and literature. Nabokov biographer Boyd provides a lengthy introduction that places Nabokov's studies within the context of his life. Nabokov's son Dmitri presents a new translation, from the original Russian, of "Father's Butterflies," a 36-page afterword to The Gift. Also translated are 12 poems that had been unavailable in English. For the specialist or the reader wanting to learn more about the scientific side of Nabokov's life, there is much here to discover. Recommended for academic libraries.--Ronald Ray Ratliff, Emporia P.L., KS Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Guy Davenport
Robert Michael Pyle's introductory "Nabakov Among the Lepidopterists," an essay of much charm and skill, [charts] the link between Nabakov and the brilliant next generation that continued his work. Pyle, who has also contributed "Butterflies and Moths Named by and for Vladimir Nabakov" to this big book, gives us a fine sense of the kind of people, "the leppers," who study butterflies.
New Critereon
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830068944
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2000
  • Pages: 782

Meet the Author

Robert Michael Pyle is the author of fourteen books, includingChasing Monarchs, Where Bigfoot Walks, and Wintergreen, whichwon the John Burroughs Medal. A Yale-trained ecologist and aGuggenheim Fellow, he is a full-time writer living in southwesternWashington.


Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. As a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri.

Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses -- the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions -- which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Vladimir Sirin
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 23, 1899
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Petersburg, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      July 2, 1977
    2. Place of Death:
      Montreux, Switzerland

Table of Contents

Nabokov, Literature, Lepidoptera 1
Between Climb and Cloud: Nabokov among the Lepidopterists 32
Nabokov's Butterflies: Selected Writings 1908-1977 77
Father's Butterflies: Second Addendum to The Gift 198
The Butterflies of Europe 569
Notes 723
Bibliography 742
Butterflies and Moths Named by and for Vladimir Nabokov 751
Acknowledgments 759
Index 761
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2000

    The Perfect Companion

    If you've read Nabokov's Speak, Memory, Strong Opinions or The Gift, and/or the wonderful narrative of his scientific career written by Johnson and Coates last year, this will be the perfect companion. It contains all the 'hard stuff' from Nabokov's work on butterflies-- excepts, entire publications, letters, interviews, speeches, drawings etc. and all with expert opinion. The book is big but its enjoyable-- and its size will just give you much more of what you already are enjoying. If you've found the story of Nabokov's work in science interesting, this will bring you even closer to it, giving you the materials from the master's own pen. With this book there will be no further doubt about Nabokov's importance in science and that the claims about his worthy contributions are true.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2000

    A Cavalcade Celebration

    As noted aptly by the Library Journal, this book picks up where Nabokov's Blues' narrative of Nabokov's scientific legacy left off and provides all the background material to understanding the literary 'master''s acumen in the science of Lepidopterology (and biology in general). By publishing all of the previously published works by Nabokov on butterflies (both literary and scientific) together with an avalanche of new material as well, Nabokov's Butterflies gives the reader everything needed to assess, enjoy, and revel in Nabokov's complex connection to these fascinating winged creatures. Nabokov not only published works on butterflies with world class scientific ramifications, much of his literature is permeated with the fascination he held for these complex and intriguing insects. The volume includes not only writings but drawings as well and, arranged chronologically, allows the reader to pilot through Nabokov's own journey into science. Having Nabokov's Butterflies in hand gives the reader as much of the breadth of Nabokov's connection to science and butterflies as would owning his autobiography Speak, Memory, his memoir Strong Opinions, his Selected Letters and much of his fiction as well. The illustrations include not only examples of his exquisite scientific drawings but the fanciful drawings of butterflies he penned for his wife Vera in first editions of his own personal library. The introductory sections, by biographer Brian Boyd and lepidopterist Robert Michael Pyle form a good balance. Boyd brings the reader intimately into Nabokov's intriguing life; Pyle records the fascinating place of Nabokov among scientists, both in his own lifetime and recently, as other scientists finished, and celebrated, his pioneering works. A reader can't go wrong with Nabokov's Butterflies; it is complete as well as balanced, beautifully presented and thoroughly enjoyable. It is readable in big gulps or small, and each will be just as delectable.

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