Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020718, Sat, 11 Sep 2010 18:52:31 -0300

Re: Alfin, Shade: Swift and a correction
Jerry Friedman sends a " few notes on natural history" answering JM on Sybil's maiden name (Swift? Swallow?). "There's general agreement among ornithologists and people interested in birds. Swallows are part of the songbird order, Passeriformes (despite their unmusical voices), while swifts are in the same order as hummingbirds (Apodiformes),... Certainly the change to "swift" in The Gift is striking, as Nabokov certainly knew the difference. Maybe it's for metrical reasons...On the subject of bot-flies, I don't think it's common at all to call them "bluebottles". That refers to a kind of fly that's common in Europe.The bot-fly whose larva you saw on the cattle ranch was the only species that infests people... I hadn't known till you mentioned it that the female lays her eggs on a mosquito or other biting fly (more parasitism). The eggs' hatching is triggered by the body heat of a person or animal when the mosquito bites it, and then the larvae can try to enter the skin through the bite if no other way is available.

JM: Thank you for your clarification. I'm very unobservant in connection to insects and a thousand and one items. Your notes came in good time.

There's something I'd like to remark. Actually, two somethings. The bluebottle, from what I read, would be the "engenderer", whereas the bot-fly would merely function as a carrier of another's eggs (Bot in German is related to "embassy",ie, messenger. I don't know if "berne" derives from "bearer", probably not). Also, when you mentioned "more parasitism," it occurred to me that perhaps most readers see Botkin/Botfly as a parasite in its end-stage (inside the body of the warm blooded animal), not as the actual "carrier of other animal's eggs." Kinbote might have tried to infest Shade with his own Zembla story, but he was only successful as a carrier of Shade's note-cards...

I wondered if Kinbote could have mistaken the Red Admirable for a Monarch butterfly (such a lot of "flaming velvets") but, judging from the Index and from his own admission, he was familiar with its dark/chocolate colors and red band. While I finally checked on the wiki (where the "Phanessa" is disavowed as a substitute name for "Vanessa") I found a note linking the butterfly to "popular culture" and, in it, referring it to John Shade, in a formulation that almost endows this character with an extra-textual identity...

Here it is: "Vanessa is a genus of brush-footed butterflies. Many people are familiar with it, as it has a near-global distribution and includes conspicuous species such as the red admirals (e.g., Red Admiral, Indian Red Admiral, New Zealand Red Admiral), the Kamehameha, and the painted ladies of subgenus Cynthia*:Painted Lady, American Painted Lady, Australian Painted Lady, etc. For African Admirals see genus, Antanartia. The name of the genus may have been taken from the girl's name. Though it has been suggested the name may be a variant of "Phanessa", from an Ancient Greek word for a mystic divinity, this is unlikely. The name of the divinity is actually not "Phanessa" but Phanes. Johan Christian Fabricius, the entomologistwho named this genus, normally used the original forms of the names of classical divinities when he created new scientific names.
In popular culture
John Shade discusses the Vanessa genus in reference to his wife in Nabokov's Pale Fire.[1]
Nabokov, Vladimir (1992) Pale Fire. New York: Everyman's Library 133

* Cynthia Vane?

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