Facts About Fiction
3:34 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Butterflies

For the UALR English Department, this is J. Bradley Minnick with Facts About Fiction.

At one time Mr. Nabokov believed that his claim to immortality would stem from the fact that he had a butterfly named after him.

Though best known for his novel Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov was also a distinguished etymologist. Nabokov once remarked that “the pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope.”

Here are the facts: In 1944, Nabokov studied the Karner blue butterfly, one he believed to be a new species judging by its diet and coloration. Then in 1945, he theorized that a particular type of butterfly migrated from Asia to the New World in waves over millions of years. Not taken seriously by contemporaries, in 2011 genetic evidence proved him correct on both discoveries. In “On Discovering the Butterfly,” he wrote, “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.”

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