Which famous author was also a lepidopterist, or someone who studied butterflies?

And the answer: Vladimir Nabokov.  
Photo credit: public domain.

Most well-known for writing Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov once said, "Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man." The author spent time as a Comparative Zoology researcher at Harvard University, where much of his butterfly collection remains today.

Nabokov was a man of many interests who left a profound impact on Western literature. In his biographical works, he describes himself as “an American writer, born in Russia, educated in England, where I studied French literature before moving to Germany for fifteen years,” which perfectly encapsulates the multiplicity of the Lolita author. Yet aside from his academic pursuits—and his passion for butterflies—did you know that Nabokov was an avid chess player who composed chess problems from a young age? Or that Nabokov was known for his well-worded and creative insults? Just see what he has to say about psychologist Sigmund Freud:

"I think he's crude, I think he's medieval, and I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me. I don't have the dreams that he discusses in his books. I don't see umbrellas in my dreams. Or balloons."

For someone as well-read and well-studied as Nabokov, I’d be afraid to be on the receiving end of his insults. Yet that creativity and wholehearted grasp on language translated well into his works, which Nabokov used to great effect. Hallmarks of his fiction include impersonators, distorted mirror images, and parodies of the self. Nabokov wrote in Russian, English, French, German, and Italian, which critics found contributed to his manipulation of form and inspired new uses of language in his novels.

Learn more about this deeply influential author and intellectual here.

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