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Ada's Erotic Entomology

From: Nabokov Studies
Volume 6, 2000/2001
pp. 129-148 | 10.1353/nab.2011.0031



Nabokov incorporates the natural world and natural science to a greater extent in Ada than in any other novel except The Gift. Ada Veen is an avid lepidopterist and botanist and her scientific interest drives the memoir's extensive biological content. Van Veen, by contrast, focuses humorously on the sexual connotations of insects and flowers (which are associated in his memory with Ada and the intense excitement of early sexual awakening). Indeed, the Ardis sections of the memoir almost embody in perverse literal form what Kinbote in Pale Fire describes as "the lust that Nature, the grand cheat, puts into us to inveigle us into propagation" (621). The extent to which Ada's biological stories parody, reflect and counterpoint the human plot is astonishing; yet readers must pursue the offered glimpses of natural detail in order to uncover the intricate motifs and patterns involving insects in the incestuous relationships of the Veens.

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