Core Professor Atema: Nerval’s Lobster

The Core presents an article by Mark Dery, in which he discusses Gérard de Nerval and his infamous “pet” lobster. Dery starts off by quoting Nerval himself:

“Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? Or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don’t bark, and they don’t gobble up your monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn’t mad!” — Gérard de Nerval, when asked why he kept a lobster as a pet and walked it on a leash.

Dery also quotes our very own Core Professor Jelle Atema on the matter:

Dr. Atema wonders if Nerval’s lobster was really a crayfish. In an e-mail to me, he speculated, “People sometimes confuse (marine) lobsters and (freshwater) crayfish. If it were a freshwater crayfish, it could take an occasional dunk in the Palais pond. Crayfish can make short overland excursions across moist terrain as do eels and some catfishes. The European lobster could be one- to two-feet long, a memorable appearance. In Europe, the crayfish would be no more than six inches long, which would not inspire lobster lore.” Then again, “as Ovidius said: rumors grow with time, thus turning a crayfish into a lobster,” explains Atema, adding, “a crayfish is more likely to have been a ‘pet’ with a home tank of fresh water and a palace pond to wet his gills, now and then, during strolls on a blue ribbon leash.”

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