Lou Andreas-Salomé

Lou Andreas-Salomé
Lou Andreas-Salomé in 1914
Born (1861-02-12)12 February 1861
Died 5 February 1937(1937-02-05) (aged 75)
Göttingen, Germany
Nationality Russian

Lou Andreas-Salomé (born either Louise von Salomé or Luíza Gustavovna Salomé or Lioulia von Salomé, Russian: Луиза Густавовна Саломе; 12 February 1861 – 5 February 1937) was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and a well traveled author, narrator, and essayist from a Russian-German family.[1] Her diverse intellectual interests led to friendships with a broad array of distinguished western thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Paul Rée, and Rainer Maria Rilke.[2]


Early years

Lou Salomé was born in St. Petersburg to Gustav Ludwig von Salomé (1807-1878), and Louise von Salomé (Wilm) (1823-1913). Lou was their only daughter; they had five sons. Although she would later be attacked by the Nazis as a "Finnish Jew", her parents were actually of French Huguenot and Northern German descent.[3] The youngest of six children, their household was wealthy and well-cultured, having all children speak Russian, German, and French, along with allowing Lou Andreas-Salomé to attend her brothers classes.

Born into a strictly Protestant family, Lou Andreas-Salomé grew to resent the Reformed church and Hermann Dalton, the Orthodox Protestant pastor, causing her to refuse being confirmed, while also leading her to be interested in philosophical, literary, and other religious topics.

Seeking an education when she was 17, Salomé persuaded the Dutch preacher Hendrik Gillot, 25 years her senior, to teach her theology, philosophy, world religions, and French and German literature. Gillot became so smitten with Salomé that he planned to divorce his wife and marry her. Salomé refused, for she was not interested in marriage and sexual relations; she was disappointed and shocked by this development, but remained friends with Gillot.

Following her father's death in 1879, Salomé and her mother went to Zurich, so Salomé could acquire a university education as a "guest student". In her one year at The University of Zurich, which was one of the few schools that accepted female students, Lou Andreas-Salomé completed lectures in philosophy (logic, history of philosophy, ancient philosophy and psychology) and theology (dogmatics). During this time, Salomé's physical health was failing due to a lung disease, causing her to cough up blood. Due to this, she was instructed to heal in warmer climates so in February 1882, Lou Andreas-Salomé and her mother arrived in Rome.

Left to right, Andreas-Salomé, Rée and Nietzsche (1882)

Rée and Nietzsche, and later life

Salomé's mother took her to Rome when Salomé was 21. At a literary salon in the city, Salomé became acquainted with Paul Rée, an author. Rée proposed marriage to her, but she instead proposed that they should live and study together as 'brother and sister', along with another man for company, where they would establish an academic commune.[4] Rée accepted the idea, and suggested that they be joined by his friend Friedrich Nietzsche. The two met Nietzsche in Rome in April 1882, and Nietzsche is believed to have instantly fallen in love with Salomé, as Rée had earlier done. Nietzsche asked Rée to propose marriage to Salomé on his behalf, which she rejected. She had been interested in Nietzsche as a friend, but not as a husband.[4] Nietzsche nonetheless was content to join together with Rée and Salomé touring through Switzerland and Italy together, planning their commune. On May 13, in Lucerne, when Nietzsche was alone with Salomé, he earnestly proposed marriage to her again, which she rejected again. He was happy to continue with the plans for an academic commune.[4] After discovering about the situation, Nietzsche's sister Elizabeth became determined to get Nietzsche away from what she described as the "immoral woman".[5] The three traveled with Salomé's mother through Italy and considered where they would set up their "Winterplan" commune. This commune was intended to be set up in an abandoned monastery, but as no suitable location was found, the plan was abandoned.

After arriving in Leipzig in October 1882, the three spent a number of weeks together. However,the following month Rée and Salome parted company with Nietzsche, leaving for Stibbe without any plans to meet again. Nietzsche soon fell into a period of mental anguish, although he continued to write to Rée, stating "We shall see one another from time to time, won't we?"[6] In later recriminations, Nietzsche would later blame the failure in his attempts to woo Salome both on Salome, Rée, and on the intrigues of his sister (who had written letters to the family of Salome and Rée to disrupt the plans for the commune). Nietzsche wrote of the affair in 1883, that he felt "genuine hatred for my sister."[6]

Salomé would later (1894) write a study, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken (Friedrich Nietzsche in his Works), of Nietzsche's personality and philosophy.[7]

In 1884 Salomé became acquainted with Helene von Druskowitz, the second woman to receive a philosophy doctorate in Zurich.[citation needed] It was also rumored that Salomé later had a romantic relationship with Sigmund Freud.[8]

Marriage and relationships

Salomé and Rée moved to Berlin and lived together until a few years before her celibate marriage[9] to a linguistics scholar, Friedrich Carl Andreas. Despite her opposition to marriage and her open relationships with other men, Salomé and Andreas remained married from 1887 until his death in 1930.

The distress caused by Salomé's co-habitation with Andreas caused the morose Rée to fade from Salomé's life despite her assurances. Throughout her married life, she engaged in affairs or/and correspondence with the German journalist and politician Georg Ledebour, the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, about whom she wrote an analytical memoir,[10] the psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Viktor Tausk, among others. Accounts of many of these are given in her volume Lebensrückblick. Her relationship with Freud was still quite intellectual despite the gossip about their romantic involvement. In one letter Freud particularly commends Salomé's deep understanding of people so much so that he offers that she understood people better than people understood themselves. The two often exchanged letters.[11]

Her relationship with Rilke was particularly close. Salomé was fifteen years his senior. They met when he was 21, were lovers for several years and correspondents until Rilke's death; it was Salome who began calling him Rainer rather than René. She taught him Russian, in order to read Tolstoy (whom he would later meet) and Pushkin. She introduced him to patrons and other people in the arts, remaining his advisor, confidante and muse throughout his adult life.[9]


Lou Andreas-Salomé's grave in Göttingen

At the age of 74, Lou Andreas-Salomé ceased to work as a psychoanalyst. She had developed heart trouble, and in her weakened condition had to be treated many times in hospital. Her husband visited her daily; it was a difficult situation for the old man, who was himself quite ill. After a forty-year marriage marked by illness on both sides and long periods of mutual non-communication, the two grew closer. Sigmund Freud himself recognized this from afar, writing: "this only proves the permanence of the truth [of their relationship]." Friedrich Carl Andreas died of cancer in 1930. Andreas-Salomé had to undergo a difficult cancer-related operation herself in 1935.

On the evening of 5 February 1937 she died of uremia in her sleep, at Göttingen. Her urn was laid to rest in her husband's grave in the Friedhof an der Groner Landstraße (Cemetery on Groner Landstrasse) in Göttingen. A memorial plaque on the newly renovated ground floor of her home, a street named "Lou-Andreas-Salomé-Weg" (Lou-Andreas-Salomé-Way), and the name of the institute for psychoanalysis and psychotherapy ("Lou-Andreas-Salomé Institut") commemorate the contributions of this former resident of Göttingen. A few days before her death the Gestapo confiscated her library (according to other sources it was an SA group who destroyed the library, and shortly after her death). The pretense for this confiscation: she had been a colleague of Sigmund Freud's, had practiced "Jewish science", and had many books by Jewish authors in her library.


Salomé was a prolific writer, and wrote several little-known novels, plays, and essays. She authored a "Hymn to Life" that so deeply impressed Nietzsche that he was moved to set it to music. Salomé's literary and analytical studies became such a vogue in Göttingen, the German town in which she lived her last years, that the Gestapo waited until shortly after her death by uremia in 1937 to "clean" her library of works by Jews.

She was one of the first female psychoanalysts and one of the first women to write psychoanalytically on female sexuality,[12] before Helene Deutsch, for instance in her essay on the anal-erotic (1916), an essay admired by Freud. However, she had written about the psychology of female sexuality before she ever met Freud, in her book Die Erotik (1911).

She wrote more than a dozen novels, such as Im Kampf um Gott, Ruth, Rodinka, Ma, Fenitschka – eine Ausschweifung and also non-fiction studies such as Henrik Ibsens Frauengestalten (1892), a study of Ibsen's woman characters and a book on her friend Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werke (1894).

She edited a memoir on her lifelong close friend and onetime lover, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, after his death in 1926. Among her works is also her Lebensrückblick, a book she wrote during her last years based on memories of her life as a free woman. In her memoirs, which were first published in their original German in 1951, she goes into depth about matters of her faith and her relationships.

Whoever reaches into a rosebush may seize a handful of flowers; but no matter how many one holds, it's only a small portion of the whole. Nevertheless, a handful is enough to experience the nature of the flowers. Only if we refuse to reach into the bush, because we can't possibly seize all the flowers at once, or if we spread out our handful of roses as if it were the whole of the bush itself — only then does it bloom apart from us, unknown to us, and we are left alone.[13]

Salomé is said to have remarked in her last days, "I have really done nothing but work all my life, work ... why?" And in her last hours, as if talking to herself, she is reported to have said, "If I let my thoughts roam I find no one. The best, after all, is death."[14]

Published works

Lou Andreas-Salomé's published works as cited by An Encyclopedia of Continental Women Writers.[15]:36–38

  • Im Kampf um Gott, 1885.
  • Henrik Ibsens Frau-Gestalten, 1892.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken, 1894.
  • Ruth, 1895, 1897.
  • Fenitshcka. Eine Ausschweifung, 1898,1983.
  • Menschenkinder, 1899.
  • Aus fremder Seele, 1901.
  • Ma, 1901.
  • Im Zwischenland, 1902.
  • Die Erotik, 1910.
  • Drei Briefe an einen Knaben, 1917.
  • Das Haus, 1919,1927.
  • Die Stunde ohne Gott und andere Kindergeschichten, 1921.
  • Der Teufel und seine Grossmutter, 1922.
  • Rodinka, 1923.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke, 1928.
  • Mein Dank an Freud: Offener Brief an Professor Freud zu seinem 75 Geburtstag, 1931.
  • Lebensruckblick. Grundriss einiger Lebenserinnerungen, ed. E. Pfeiffer, 1951, 1968.
  • Rainer Maria Rilke - Lou Andreas-Salomé. Briefwechsel, ed. E. Pfeiffer, 1952.
  • In der Schule bei Freud, ed. E. Pfeiffer, 1958.
  • Sigmund Freud - Lou Andreas-Salomé. Briefwechsel, ed. E. Pfeiffer, 1966.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Rée, Lou von Salomé: Die Dokumente ihrer Begegnung, ed. E. Pfeiffer, 1970.


  • The Freud Journal of lou Andreas-Salomé, tr. Stanley Leavy, 1964.
  • Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé, Letters, tr. byu W. and E. Robson Scott, 1972.
  • Ibsen's Heroines, ed., tr., and introd. by Siegfried Mandel, 1985.

In fiction and film

A fictional account of Salomé's relationship with Nietzsche is described in Irvin Yalom's novel, When Nietzsche Wept,[16] also in Lance Olsen's novel, Nietzsche's Kisses, and the novel by Mexican writer Beatriz Rivas, titled La hora sin diosas (The time without goddesses).[17]

Salomé plays a major role in William Bayer's novel, The Luzern Photograph, in which two reenactments of the famous image of her with Nietzsche and Rée impact a murder in contemporary Oakland, California.[18]

Mexican playwright Sabina Berman includes Lou Andreas-Salomé as a character in her 2000 play Feliz nuevo siglo, Doktor Freud (Freud Skating).[19]

Salomé is also fictionalized in Angela von der Lippe's The Truth about Lou,[20] in Brenda Webster's Vienna Triangle,[21] in Clare Morgan's A Book for All and None[22], in Robert Langs' two-act play Freud's Bird of Prey.[23], and in Araceli Bruch's five-act play Re-Call (written in Catalan).[24]

In Liliana Cavani's movie Al di la' del bene e del male (Beyond Good and Evil) Salome is played by Dominique Sanda. In Pinchas Perry's film version of When Nietzsche Wept, Salome is played by Katheryn Winnick.

Lou Salome, an opera in two acts by Giuseppe Sinopoli with libretto from Karl Dietrich Gräwe, premiered 1981 at the Bavarian State Opera, with August Everding as General Director, staging by Götz Friedrich and set design by Andreas Reinhardt.[25]

In Colombian author Santiago Gamboa's novel Night Prayers[26], the epigram quotes Andreas-Salome: "What remained in the end, however the world or life changed, was the immutable fact of a universe abandoned by God."

Lou Andreas-Salomé, a German-language movie directed by Cordula Kablitz-Post, released in German cinemas on 30 June 2016.[27] Andreas-Salome is portrayed onscreen by Katharina Lorenz and as a young woman by Liv Lisa Fries.

The film was released in New York City and Los Angeles in April 2018, with wider release to follow.