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Lou Andreas-Salomé: The woman who charmed the distinguished western thinkers Freud, Nietzsche, and Rilke

Marija Georgievska

Lou Andreas-Salomé was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and writer. Salomé is remembered for her friendships with the distinguished western thinkers, including Nietzsche, Freud, and Rilke.

Born in St. Petersburg, she was the only daughter of an army general. At seventeen, Salomé persuaded the Dutch preacher Hendrik Gillot to teach her theology, philosophy, world religions, and German and French literature. She went to Zurich with her mother to acquire a university education.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, 1877.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, 1877.

When she was 21, her mother took her to Rome where she met Paul Rée, an author and compulsive gambler with whom she proposed living in an academic commune. After a few months, they became partners. Friedrich Nietzsche joined the duo on 13 May 1882. Salomé would later write a study of Nietzsche’s personality and philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken.

Lou Andreas-Salomé with Friedrich Karl Andreas, August Endell and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Lou Andreas-Salomé with Friedrich Karl Andreas, August Endell, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

 

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

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

They had an idea to set up their “Winterplan” commune in an abandoned monastery somewhere in Italy while they were traveling with Salomé’s mother. They did not found a suitable location and the plan was abandoned.

When they arrived in Leipzig in Germany, Rée and Salome separated from Nietzsche because she believed that he was desperately in love with her. In 1884, Salomé became acquainted with Helene von Druskowitz, the second woman to receive a philosophy doctorate in Zurich.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, 1914.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, 1914.

 

Salome and Rilke (left).

Salome and Rilke (left).

The couple moved to Berlin and they lived together until a few years before her marriage to Friedrich Carl Andreas. Andreas loved Salomé, despite her opposition to marriage and her open relationships with other men, and they remained married from 1887 until his death in 1930. Throughout her married life, she had an affair with Georg Ledevour, a German journalist and politician, and Rainer Maria Rilke, about whom she wrote an analytical memoir, and several other men including Sigmund Freud and Viktor Tausk.

It is believed that her relationship with Freud was still quite intellectual despite the gossip about them romantically. For fifteen years, Salomé was Rilke’s senior and they were particularly close. They met when he was 21, were lovers for several years and correspondents until Rilke’s death.

Her urn was laid to rest in her husband's grave in the Friedhof an der Groner Landstraße (Cemetery on Groner Landstrasse) in Göttingen. Photo Credit

Her urn was laid to rest in her husband’s grave in the Friedhof an der Groner Landstraße (Cemetery on Groner Landstrasse) in Göttingen. Photo Credit

A few days before her death, the Gestapo confiscated her library because she was a colleague and a friend of Sigmund Freud who practiced a “Jewish science” and had many books by Jewish authors in her library.

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Salomé died of uremia in her sleep on the evening of 5 February 1937 at her home in Göttingen. Her urn was laid to rest in her husband’s grave.