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Section 4

2  Uncollected Interviews with Mention of Lepidoptera


Int1– Robert H. Boyle: "An Absence of Wood Nymphs". In August, 1959, Boyle accompanied Nabokov for two days of butterfly hunting in the Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. The intention was to collect 'Nabokov's Wood Nymph,' »Cyllopsis pertepida dorothea Nabokov, 1942 [Nymphalidae, Satyrinae], but it did not show up, nor did much else. "I apologize for the butterflies." The article is a vivid account of this disappointing field trip.– Sports Illustrated (Chicago), Sep 14, 1959, p. E5–E8. A slightly longer version is in Robert H. Boyle: At the Top of Their Game, Piscataway, New Jersey (Nick Lyons / Winchester Press) 1983, p. 123–33; reprinted in NabBut 528–537

Int2– Anne Guérin: "Entretien: Vladimir Nabokov". Answer not used in published interview: "When I start to dismantle a butterfly, I suddenly develop very delicate hands."– L'Express (Paris), Jan 26, 1961, p. 26–27; NabBut 546

Int3– Janine Colombo: "Si Nabocov vient en Israel ce sera à cause des papillons de Jérusalem". "… chaque pays, je le vois en termes de papillons et en nuances de papillons. Je suis collectionneur et je sais qu'une espèce de papillons, des papillons de ton pastel, très rares, se trouvent sur les collines de Jérusalem en février. Voilà pourquoi je ne veux y aller qu'en février."– L'Information d'Israel (Paris), Feb 3, 1961, p. 6; NabBut 547

Int4– Claude Mercadié: "Sur la Promenade des Anglais Vladimir Nabokov le père de 'Lolita' a planté sa tente de nomade." "'Regardez … J'ai réussi à le capturer au pied d'un arbousier après quatre heures d'affût … C'est un Callophrys avis … Attention, il faut surtout bien écrire avec un minuscule. C'est une espèce très important… J'ai eu beaucoup de chance". [»Callophrys avis]– Nice-Matin (Nice), Apr 13, 1961, p. 5; NabBut 549

Int5– Phyllis Meras: "V. Nabokov Unresting". "For seven years, you see, I was responsible for the butterflies at Harvard. I was practically curator there. There's a butterfly in every one of my novels. One of the first things I ever wrote in English was a paper on Lepidoptera I prepared at the age of 12. It wasn't published because a butterfly I described had been described by somebody else". [»Limenitis populi var. bucovinensis]– Providence Sunday Journal (Providence, Rhode Island), May 13, 1962; NabBut 560

Int6– Pierette Blanc: "Vladimir Nabokov, auteur de 'Lolita': 'Je ne connais pas une seule petite fille". " – Avez-vous trouvé des espèces intéressantes? – Je suis content de vous entendre dire 'espèce' et non 'spécimen', car les spécimens ne sont que des échantillons. J'ai passé le mois de juin en Valais, dans la vallée du Rhône, où j'ai pu poursuivre d'intéressantes études. Les fleurs, qui sont les plantes nourricières, y sont suffisament abondantes. Sur le Simplon, j'ai vu des choses que l'on ne trouve nulle part ailleurs. My passion pour les papillons est née il y a 60 ans, alors que je n'avais que 5 ans. La Russie est un immense pays qui renferme toutes sortes d'espèces … On a beaucoup écrit sur les sauterelles, parce qu'elles risquent de détruire les récoltes, mais bien trop peu sur les papillons. – Comment trouvez-vous la Suisse? – C'est parfait, mais je n'aime pas beaucoup les vaches. Elles éloignent les papillons."– Tribune de Lausanne, Sep 1, 1963, p. 11

Int7– Dieter E. Zimmer: "Despot in meiner Welt." "There are fascinating butterflies in the mountains [of Switzerland]. Collecting in the Simplon region or the Grisons is a marvelous pleasure, and some of these renowned localities – Pontresina, Zermatt, Laggintal, the Rhone Valley – are classical haunts that still yield unexpected discoveries despite the generations of English and German collectors who roamed there in the past… But I also intend to collect butterflies in Peru or Iran before I pupate… Had the Revolution not happened the way it happened, I would have enjoyed a landed gentleman's leisure, no doubt, but I also think that my entomological occupations would have been more engrossing and energetic and that I would have gone on long collecting trips to Asia. I would have had a private museum…" – Die Zeit (Hamburg), Nov 1, 1966, p. 19–20; NabBut 642–643

Int8– Pierre Dommergues: "Notes et Documents: Entretien avec Vladimir Nabokov". "… je pense quelquefois à la douceur d'être entomologiste, obscur conservateur du musée quelque part en Amérique, cinq ou six mille dollars par mois, découvertes passionantes, querelles de savants, le silence radieux au fond du microscope". Answer not used in the published interview: "I like staying at a thousand meters and climbing every day up to at least two thousand meters to chase alpine butterflies there. I know few things sweeter than to go out early in the morning with my net and take the chairlift towards a cloudless sky, following underneath myself, at the side, the shadow of the airborne chair with my seated silhouette, the shadow of my net first, sliding along the slopes, waving under the alders, still climbing, slim, supple, rejuvenated and stylized by the effect of projection, crawling graciously in an almost mythological ascension."– les langues modernes (Paris), 62 (1), Jan-Feb 1968, p. 92–102; NabBut 650

Int9– Gaetano Tumiati: "Signor Nabokov, un'altra Lolita?" To the interviewers' question how he can reconcile his "sence of perfect harmony" with the killing of butterflies, Nabokov answered: "First, let me tell you that to enjoy something you have to see it and know it… I don't understand how one can call the knowledge of natural objects or the vocabulary of nature 'pedantry.'… Not only do we collect butterflies, but we examine under the microscope their minuscule organs whose form helps to classify the creature more certainly than the color of its wings. And believe me, the emotion of recognizing in an alpine meadow a butterfly one knows to be different from another and whose special comportment one observes – this emotion is a feeling in which the scientific and the artistic sides join in an apex of sharp pleasure unknown to the man walking under trees he cannot even name". The reply was not used in the published interview.– Unpublished part of an interview (in French) for La Stampa (Torino), Oct 30, 1969, p. 3; NabBut 671

Int10– Robert Tabozzi: "Lo Zar Nabokov". "The only autobiographical feature in Lolita is a bunch of motels having some resemblance to those my wife and I stayed at in the forties and fifties, during the several summers we spent, when covering fifty thousand miles of America, in hunting butterflies." Answer not used in published interview.– Panorama (Milano), 8 (186), Nov 6, 1969, p. 50–56

Int11– Alan Levy: "Understanding Vladimir Nabokov: A Red Autumn Leaf Is a Red Autumn Leaf, Not a Deflowered Nymphet". On an excursion with the interviewer to Grangette, six miles from Montreux: "His quest today is for 'a very interesting butterfly,' the Purple Emperor [»Apatura iris]. After calling for 'silence, not total silence, but some silence,' he describes 'its beautiful violet sheen – if you turn it this way and that way, the shimmer changes. It used to fly here until they asphalted the road. Now it's getting scarcer and scarcer. I saw one the other day up in Caux, but I couldn't look at it closer because it was flying higher and higher in such a hurry—Ahhh!' With a whooshing left backhand swoop, Nabokov bags a lemonish yellow butterfly… 'A brimstone [»Gonepteryx rhamni], not uncommon,' he explains. 'This was supposed to be the first butterfly ever noticed: hence the name butterfly. Another version has it that the name was derived from flutter by – making it all a Spoonerism.' … Nabokov's next catch is a gray Veined White, which he extracts from his net, holds up gingerly, and croons over… 'If you go up certain hills and mountains for about eighteen hundred meters you'll find a peculiarly beautiful gray-yellowish version of this – but, all along the way up, you'll encounter intermediate forms… 'This one I will take. A lovely intergrade between the common Veined White and its cousin Bryony White". "He admits he was seeking [the Purple Emperor] for sentimental reasons: "I just remember many places with it. As a boy, I hunted it in Bad Kissingen, in Bavaria."[»Pieris napi, »Pieris bryoniae]– New York Times Magazine, Oct 31, 1971, p. 20–41

Int12– Helga Chudacoff: "Schmetterlinge sind wie Menschen."Die Welt (Hamburg), Sep 26, 1974, p. iii; NabBut 707–708

Int13– James Salter: "An Old Magician Named Nabokov Writes and Lives in Splendid Exile". A short mention of butterfly collecting, with the famous photo by Philippe Halsman.– People (New York), Mar 17, 1975, p. 60–64

Int14– [Live television interview with Bernard Pivot]. A few minutes on the butterflies of Ada and on the protection of butterflies. »Iolana iolas,    »Graellsia isabellae. – Antenne 2, May 30, 1975; NabBut 715–716

Int15– Gerald Clarke: "Checking in with Vladimir Nabokov." "Since my years at the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Harvard, I have not touched a microscope, knowing that if I did, I would drown again in its bright well. Thus I have not, and probably never shall, accomplish the greater part of the entrancing research work I had imagined in my young mirages, such as 'A monograph of the Eurasian and American machaon group,' or 'The Eupithecias of the World.'"– Esquire (Chicago, Illinois), 84 (1), Jul 1975, p. 67–69, 131, 133; NabBut 711–712

Int16– George Feifer: "Vladimir Nabokov: an interview". With a few remarks on the protection of butterflies and on his entomological plans.– Saturday Review (San Francisco, California), Nov 27, 1976, p. 20–25; NabBut 710–711

Int17– Sophie Lannes: "Portrait de Nabokov.""A pastime once as banal as music or watercolor lessons became for me, from my tender childhood, a passion, a study and finally a profession… It is pure science with no esthetic side …" Answer not used in the published interview.– L'Express (Paris), Jun 30–Jul 6, 1975, p. 62–65; NabBut 714

Int18– Robert Robinson: "The Last Interview". With a short passage on butterfly collecting. On a possible substitution to writing, Nabokov says: "Oh yes, I have always had a number of parts lined up in case the muse failed. A lepidopterologist exploring famous jungles came first…"– In: Peter Quenell (ed.): "Vladimir Nabokov: A tribute", New York (William Morrow) 1980, p. 119–125; NabBut 719–720

Int19– Mati Laanso: "An Interview with Vladimir Nabokov". With a remark on butterfly collecting in British Columbia.– CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Mar 20, 1973; The Vladimir Nabokov Research Newsletter (Lawrence, Kansas), 10, Spring 1983, p. 39–48; NabBut 697


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