“It terrifies me, the fragility of these moments in our lives.”
Monday, 4 June 2018
Lou Andreas-Salomé“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.
“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.”
in St. Petersburg, Lou Andreas Salomé (1861-1937) was a writer, thinker
and psychoanalyst who figured in the most prominent intellectual
circles of late 19th century Europe. Despite engaging with
the most privileged minds of the time, today she is virtually unknown
––a fact that forces us to question the validity of fame.
The daughter of a Russian general who
worked at the service of the Romanov family, at the age of seventeen she
met her first mentor, Henrik Gillot, tutor of the Zar’s children, who
would initiate her in theology and French and German literature. Gillot,
married and with children, soon fell in love with Lou and asked for her
hand in marriage; she rejected him.
In 1880, Lou travelled to Zurich with
her mother. There she studied Dogmatic Theology and History of Religion
in the University of Zurich. Two years later she moved to Rome where she
met Paul Rée (who would be her lover for some time) and Friedrich
Nietzsche ––with them she would establish an intellectually overwhelming
threesome. Her travels and studies continued, until in 1887 she would
meet the man she would marry: Carl Friedrich Andreas. Her marriage to
Andreas, which lasted until he died in 1930, was never consummated —some
say he threatened to kill himself if she refused to marry him and that
they always lived in separate houses. Additionally, Lou continued to
have relationships with other men for the rest of her life.
By writing articles and books, Salome
would maintain and economic independence from her husband. She was the
first person to publish studies about Nietzsche’s work, six years before
the philosopher’s death ––who at some point fell in love with her and
asked her to marry him; proposal she would once again reject. Some
scholars believe that it was during this phase and under the influence
of disenchantment that Nietzsche would write Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
In 1897, already married to Andreas, Lou
met writer Rainer Maria Rilke, with whom she would keep a romantic
relationship for many years. The young poet, fifteen years younger than
her, instantly fell in love with Lou, who at first rejected him. After
some time and due to Rilke’s insistence, she agreed to have a
relationship with him, which always oscillated between love, friendship,
admiration, platonic love and an incredibly profound creative
relationship. Proof of their prolonged and intense relationship is their
love letters, which still survive. Among other things, she taught Russian to Rilke, so he could read Tolstoy and Pushkin.
In 1902, after Paul Rée’s suicide,
Salome entered a profound crisis that she would overcome with the help
of Viennese doctor Friedrich Pineles. She would have a romantic affair
with him that would lead her to have a voluntary abortion.
In 1911 she met Sigmund Freud and
immediately became hooked on psychoanalysis, being the only female to be
accepted in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Circle. For the rest of their
lives they would maintain a friendly relationship based on deep respect
and love. She began giving psychoanalytic therapy in the German city of
Lou Andreas Salome died in 1937 at the
age of 76 due to renal failure. Her thought combined Freudian
psychoanalysis with Nietzsche’s philosophy, and her studies were based,
mainly, on narcissism and female sexuality.
This is a woman who lived her life with
extreme freedom, beyond what was common at the time; she was an icon for
the free woman of the 20th century. Regardless of the fact
that she would strangely remain in the somber region of historical
memory, what is true is that some of the fundamental men of the last one
hundred years sighed more than once for her.