Editor’s note: In the final days of 2005, ITF made inquiries about the identity of its new translator-in-residence. We have so far received two responses.

Admiral Babočka (grandson of Vanessa Atalanta), who has published several articles on Motýlí Voko, writes:

In Czech, “motýlí oko” signifies “the eye of the butterfly.” The name could be a reference to the famous Chinese story of Chuang Chou dreaming he was a butterfly. Waking up he could not figure out whether he was Chou dreaming of being a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of being Chou. Or, in fact, whether there is any difference between Chou and the butterfly.

The Chuang Tzu transformation story may be a clever play on perspectives, but it does not tell us who the author is and what he believes. For that I turn my dear reader’s attention to the recently (2003) uncovered DNA link between Motýlí Voko and the renowned Russian lepidopterist Timofey Timofeyevich Pnin. In chapter six of his autobiography, the butterfly scholar observes:

When a certain moth resembles a certain wasp in shape and color, it also walks and moves its antennae in a waspish, unmothlike manner. When a butterfly has to look like a leaf, not only are all the details of a leaf beautifully rendered but markings mimicking grub-bored holes are generously thrown in. “Natural selection,” in the Darwinian sense, could not explain the miraculous coincidence of imitative aspect and intimate behavior, nor could one appeal to the theory of “the struggle for life” when a protective device was carried to a point of mimetic subtlety, exuberance, and luxury far in excess of a predator’s power of appreciation.

The writer inside the scientist adds: “I discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.”

Here ends our excerpt from Babočka’s letter.

Červená Housenka (Red Caterpillar) comments: “With all due respect to Dr. Babočka, the academician cannot see beyond the brim of his spectacles. The intention behind the name has been deliberately concealed by Voko, and those who do figure it out have been kindly asked to keep the secret to themselves.”

Click here for a portrait of Motýlí Voko by his friend Red Caterpillar.

Click here for a photo of the admiral.

Click here to watch the caterpillar in action.

Jan Vihan is a contributing writer for In The Fray.

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