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Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937)


Russian-German novelist, essayist, psychoanalyst, and a muse, colleague, and companion for such authors and thinkers as Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud. Lou Andreas-Salomé wrote widely on literature criticism, philosophy and psychoanalysis. With her indifference to moral conventions and insatiable intellectual curiosity, Andreas-Salomé challenged the gender roles of her day.

Jahrtausende zu denken und zu leben
Wirf deinen Inhalt voll hinein!
Hast du kein Glück mehr übig, mir zu geben,
Wohlan—noch hast du deine Pein.

(from 'Hymn to Life' by Andreas-Salomé)

Lou(ise) Andreas-Salomé was born in St. Petersburg into a wealthy family. Gustav von Salomé, her father, was a Russian army officer. Her mother, Louise Wilm, nineteen years younger than her husband, was the daughter of a prosperous sugar manufacturer. Andreas-Salomé was the fourth child and the only girl in the family. She became especially close with her father, who was 57, when she was born. Also her much older brothers adored their little sister and took a protective attitude toward her. Later in her book of memoir, Lebensrückblick (1951), Andreas-Salomé confessed that she would see a brother hidden in every man she met. At home Andreas-Salomé spoke German and French and occasionally Russian. Her books she wrote in German.

Andreas-Salomé's father died when she was 17. At the age of confirmation in the German Lutheran Church, she entered a deeply religious phase. She was tutored at home in philosophy and religion by the Protestant pastor Hendrik Gillot, twenty-five years her senior, married, and the father of two children. When he proposed marriage to her, Andreas-Salomé could not continue with her tutor, her first great love. In Holland, during a strange confirmation in the Lutheran church, Gillot gave her the name 'Lou.' With her mother she then traveled to Switzerland, where she enrolled at the University of Zürich – she was one of the first female students to be accepted by the unversity. Andreas-Salomé studied philosophy, art history, and comparative religion.

Andreas-Salomé had already suffered from health problems in St. Petersburg, but after contracting severe lung disease, doctors gave her only a few years to live. To regain her health, she went to Italy. In Rome she met Paul Rée, a gambler and moral philosopher, who became her companion. They lived in a menage a trois for five years. It is possible that Andreas-Salomé remained a virgin until the mid-1890s.

At the age of twenty twenty-one, Andreas-Salomé met Friedrich Nietzsche, a friend of Paul Rée's. Nietzsche was thirty-seven, a well-known philosopher, but he fell immediately under her spell. "From which stars did we fall to meet each other here?" were Nietzche's first words when he saw her at Saint Peter's Basilica. Later their stormy love triangle inspired Liliana Cavani's film Beyond Good and Evil (1977).

Andreas-Salomé was Nietzsche's most painful love. "... I lust after this kind of soul," Nietzsche wrote to Rée; actually he needed a young person around him who is intelligent and educated enough to serve as his assistant. In Ecce Homo he praised her poem, 'Hymnus an das Leben' (1882, Hymn to Life), which he set to music. "Whoever can find any meaning at all in the last words of this poem will guess why I preferred and admired it: they attain greatness. Pain is not considered an objection to life: 'If you have no more happiness to give me, / well then! you still have suffering ...' Perhaps my music, too, attains greatness at this point." Possibly Nietzsche proposed marriage to her, although according to Rudolp Binion he never did so. However, Nietsche told Andreas-Salomé that Thus Spoke Zarathustra had been conceived as an artistic substitute for the son he would never have. In Lucerne Andreas-Salomé, Nietzsche and Rée had a photograph by Jules Bonnet taken of themselves, Lou kneeling in a small cart and holding a whip over the two man-team, who are pulling the cart.

Nietzsche's jealous sister Elisabeth turned against Andreas-Salomé and regarded her as a poisonous vermin that must be destroyed. Nietzsche broke off his relationship with Andreas-Salomé in December 1882. "Should Lou be a misunderstood angel?" he asked. "Should I be a misunderstood ass?" In an unsent letter he wrote: "This scrawny dirty smelly monkey with her fake breasts – a disaster!" After separating from Nietzsche and Paul Rée, Andreas-Salomé published her account of Nietzsche's thought, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken (1894), in which she characterized him a fundamentally religious personality, "a religious genius confronted with the death of God."

Andreas-Salomé's first book, Im Kampf um Gott (1885), an autobiographical novel, was a success. It is also considered her best prose work. In her of time she was a well-known writer, but today all her fifteen novels are forgotten. However, Andreas-Salomé never regarded herself primarily as a novelist.

In 1887 Andreas-Salomé married the famous orientalist and philologist Frederick Carl Andreas, sixteen years his senior. At that time he taught German to Turks who had settled in Berlin, but later in 1903 he was appointed professor at Göttingen University. Hendrik Gillot reluctantly agreed to officiate at the wedding. The marriage, which lasted over 40 years, was apparently unconsummated. First Andreas did his best to change the situation, but eventually he accepted her resistance and fears of loss of the self in the other. "Two are at one only when they remain two," Andreas-Salomé once explained. When the socialist politician Georg Ledebour realized the secret of their marriage, that she was still a virgin, he determinedly besieged her. Basically Andreas-Salomé saw the relationship between her sexuality and intellectual pursuits "by nature" conflictual.

Although Andreas-Salomé continued to pursue her travels across Europe and had sexual relationships outside marriage, she always returned to Göttingen. In Paris she spent much time with the German playwright Frank Wedekind, who misunderstood the nature of her interest in him. In Vienna she visited regularly the Hof Atelier Elvira, a gathering place for gay men and lesbians. In 1891, when she lived with Andreas in Berlin, she became friends with Gerhart and Marie Hauptmann and startdd to contribute to the social and critical review Die Freie Bühne. Also the graphic artist and sculptor Käthe Kollwitz was one of her friends.

In 1892 Andreas-Salomé published a book on Ibsen's female characters, Hedrik Ibsens Frauengestalten. It was rumored that Ibsen had modelled her famous Hedda Gabler, who desired to live like a man, after her, but Andreas-Salomé expressed particular dislike of the character: "She resembles a ravenous wolf on which a sheep's skin has been growing for a very long time and who has forfeited its predatory strength only to keep its predatory soul."

With Frieda von Bülow Andreas-Salomé traveled in 1895 to Vienna, where she met Arthur Schnitzler. From 1897 to 1901 Andreas-Salomé had an affair with Rainer Maria Rilke. The poet was 14 years her junior – she was mistaken for his mother. She visited with Rilke two times Russia, where they met Leo Tolstoy and the folk poet Drozhzin.

In 1911 Andreas-Salomé spent some time with her friend Ellen Key in Sweden, where she met the physician and analyst Poul Bjerre, who brought her with him to Weimar to attend the Third International Psychoanalytic Congress. "I have become closely acquainted with her and must say that I have never met with such an understanding of psychoanalysis down to the last and smallest detail," wrote one of the participants to Freud. In the famous group photo documenting the congress, Andreas-Salomé, wrapped in a long fur, was seated at center near Freud. With Victor Tausk, Freud's brilliant but disturbed colleague, Andreas-Salomé had a close relationship and helped him with his publications. Tausk committed suicide in 1919. Distinctly, their "Pythagoren friendship" had much similarities with Nietzsche – Rée – Andreas-Salomé triangle, now Freud playing the role of the prophet.

Before meeting the founder of psychoanalysis, Andreas-Salomé had published a study of sexual love, Die Erotik (1911). In 1912 she asked in a letter to Freud his permission to come to Vienna for psychoanalytical training. Andreas-Salomé was still in her fifties youthful-appearing and when Freud first encountered her, he warned one of his younger followers that she was "a woman of dangerous intelligence" but that "all the tracks around her go into the Lion's den but none come out."

During her stay in Vienna Andreas-Salomé associated also with Adler, but eventually turned against him. For a brief period, Andreas-Salomé was Freud's closest woman pupil and she was allowed to attend regularly the internal Wednesday gatherings at Bergstrasse 19 at Freud's home. "Frau Lou" became also close to Freud's daughter Anna. Noteworthy, she never questioned Anna's adoration of her famous father.

Andreas-Salomé kept up a correspondence with Freud for over two decades. From 1913 Andreas-Salomé took patients for analysis, but it was not until the 1920s when her practice started to gain professional recognition. A keen observer of human nature, Andreas-Salomé fully utilized her great gift of empathy to help her patients, sometimes even without a fee. In the confrontation between Freud and Carl Jung, she first attempted to behave "diplomatically," but eventually she considered that Jung gave up the attempt to be a scientists.

Andreas-Salomé's most important psychoanalytical study was 'Narzissmus als Doppelrichtungen' (1921), published in Imago, a psychoanalytical journal where several of her other works appeared. Andreas-Salomé developed into a new direction Freud's ideas which he had sketched in his 1914 essay 'On Narcissism', and argued that love and sex are a reunion of the self with its lost half. Freud considered her article on anal eroticism from 1916 one of the best things she wrote. Andreas-Salomé associated anal sexuality with genitality and argued that "it is characteristic for animals that anal and genital orientations go together completely," and continued that "it is no accident that the genital apparatus remains so closely connected to the anus (and in woman is merely rented from it)."

Friedrich Andres died of cancer in 1930. Lou Andreas-Salomé died of uremia in Göttingen seven years later, on February 5, 1937. Freud learned of her death from a newspaper and wrote to Arnold Zweig, that he "was very fond of her" but assured, "strange to say without a trace of sexual attraction." Her autobiographical works, Grundriss einiger Lebenserinnerungen (1933) and Lebensrückblick (1951), give a fascinating but somewhat coloured view into her life and acquaintances. Andreas-Salomé do not mention in Lebensrückblick her lover Friedrich Pineles, a physician. Their relationship ended when she had a miscarriage. Andreas-Salomé's correspondence with Rilke was published in 1952.

For further reading: Lou Andreas-Salomé: Feministin Oder Antifeministin-Eine Standortbestimmung Zur Wilhelminischen Frauenbewegung by Caroline Kreide (1997); Die Frauen Sigmund Freuds by Lisa Appignaesi and John Forrester (1994); Woman and Modernity: The (Life)Styles of Lou Andreas-Salomé by Biddy Martin (1991); Lou Andreas-Salomé by Linde Salber (1990); Lou Andreas-Salomé by Ursula Welsch and Michaela Wiesner (1990); Salomé: Her Life and Work by Angela Livingstone (1985); Lou Andreas-Salomé: Leben, Persönlichkeit, Werk: eine Biographie by Cordula Koepcke (1986); Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple by R. Binion (1968); My Sister, My Spouse by H.F. Peters (1962)

Selected works:

  • Im Kampf um Gott, 1885
  • Hedrik Ibsens Frauen-Gestalten, 1892
    - Ibsen's Heroines (edited & translated with an introduction by Siegfried Mandel, 1985)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken, 1894
    - Nietzsche (edited, translated and with an introduction by Siegfried Mandel, 1988)
  • Ruth, 1985
  • Jesus der Jude, 1895
  • Aus fremder Seele, 1896
  • Fenitschka, 1898
    - Fenitschka; and, Deviations: Two Novellas (translated from the German with an introduction by Dorothee Einstein Krahn, 1990)
  • Menschenkinder, 1899
    - The Human Family = Menschenkinder (translated and with an introduction by Raleigh Whitinger, 2005)
  • Ma, 1901
  • Im Zwischenland, 1902
  • Die Erotik, 1910
    - The Erotic (with a foreword by Matthew Del Nevo, and an introduction by Gary Winship, translated by John Crisp, 2012)
  • Drei Briefe an einen Knaben, 1917
  • Das Haus, 1921
  • Der Teufel und seine Großmutter, 1922
  • Die Stunde ohne Gott, 1922
  • Rodinka, 1923
  • R.M. Rilke, Gedenkbuch, 1928
    - You Alone Are Real to Me: Remembering Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Angela von der Lippe, 2003)
  • Mein Dank an Freud: Brief an Professor Sigmund Freud zu seinem 75. Geburtstag, 1931
  • Grundriss einiger Lebenserinnerungen, 1933
  • Lebensrückblick, 1951 (ed. by Ernst Pfeiffer)
    - Looking Back: Memoirs  (edited by Ernst Pfeiffer,  translated by Breon Mitchell, 1991)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé; Briefwechsel, 1952 (ed. by Ernst Pfeiffer)
  • In der Schule bei Freud. Tagebuch eines Jahres, 1912/1913, 1958 (ed. by  Ernest Pfeiffer)
    - The Freud Journal of Lou Andreas-Salomé (translated by S.A. Leavy, 1964)
  • Briefwechsel mit Freud, 1966 (ed. by Ernst Pfeiffer)
    - Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé: Letters (edited by Ernst Pfeiffer, translated by William and Elainen Robson-Scott, 1972)
  • Lebensrückblick. Grundriss einiger Lebenserinnerungen, 1968 (new ed. edited by  Ernst Pfeiffer)
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salomé: Briefwechsel, 1975 (new enlarged ed., ed. by Ernst Pfeiffer)
    - Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salome´: The Correspondence  (translated by Edward Snow and Michael Winkler, 2006)
  • Drei Dichtungen, 1981
  • Fenitschka; Eine Ausschweifung: zwei Erza¨hlungen, 1982 (edited with an afterword by Ernst Pfeiffer)
    - Fenitschka; and, Deviations: Two Novellas (translated from the German with an introduction by Dorothee Einstein Krahn, 1990)
  • Eintragungen. Letzte Jahre, 1982
  • Rainer Maria Rilke / Lou Andreas-Salomé; mit den Fotografien der Erstausgabe, 1988 (ed. by Ernst Pfeiffer)
  • Lou Andreas-Salomé: mit Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten, 1990 (ed. by Linde Salber)
  • Lou Andreas-Salomé, Das "zweideutige Lächeln der Erotik", 1990 (ed. by Inge Weber and Brigitte Rempp)
  • "--als käm ich heim zu Vater und Schwester": Lou Andreas-Salomé-Anna Freud: Briefwechsel 1919-1937, 2001 (ed. by Daria A. Rothe and Inge Weber)

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