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Andreas-Salomé, Lou

Lou Andreas-Salomé

Russian-born German writer Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937) has been known mostly as the lover of and inspiration to several of the most prominent male German authors of her time, including philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and psychoanalytic pioneer Sigmund Freud.

Andreas-Salomé was also a prolific writer on her own, however, and in matters of female independence and sexual liberation she was a trailblazer. Her novels, plays, stories, and essays, mostly forgotten today, are often thinly veiled treatments of her romantic and intellectual adventures with the men in her life. Yet as such, her writings are unique: she combined a strong female perspective, eroticism, and a spirit of independence, and in some ways she may be regarded as the forerunner of twentieth-century female intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir.


A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Andreas-Salomé was born Louise Salomé on February 12, 1861. Her father, Gustav Ludwig von Salomé, was a distinguished Russian general who doted on his youngest child and only daughter, sometimes to an extent that disturbed Andreas-Salomé's mother, Louise Wilm von Salomé. Both French and German were widely spoken among the Russian aristocracy at the time, and Andreas-Salomé was raised speaking those languages. She spoke some Russian as well, but when she rebelled at the idea of studying that language in school, her father gave her the green light to study whatever she liked.

Fortunately, Andreas-Salomé proved to be a curious child who had little difficulty in educating herself. Lonely and given to fantasy, she finally found an effective teacher in a married Dutch-born minister named Hendrik Gillot. He instructed her in philosophy, languages, and religion, carried out her confirmation ceremony in the German Lutheran church, gave her the nickname of Lou (which would stick for the rest of her life), and inculcated in her a spirit of independence and self-regard. When the student-teacher relationship broke down, probably under the stress of Gillot's attraction to his young pupil (described as beautiful for most of her life), Andreas-Salomé fell ill. She and her mother headed for Zurich, Switzerland, where Lou would recuperate and continue her education at the University of Zurich.

In Zurich Andreas-Salomé immersed herself in studies of theology and art history. Professors at the university did not know quite what to make of the young Russian woman but were unanimous in praising her brilliance. Andreas-Salomé, however, continued to suffer from the effects of a worsening lung disease that doctors had warned could cost her her life. She began coughing up blood. Her mother, alarmed, decided that a warmer climate might help, and the pair moved on to Rome, Italy, in 1882. The new location was helpful both physically and intellectually, for Rome was full of writers and thinkers from all over Europe.

Through a family friend, Andreas-Salomé met two young philosophers, Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche. Rée was the first to fall under her spell, but both were soon in love with her. Andreas-Salomé, for her part, was pleased to be traveling Europe, healthy, and receiving romantic attention from some of the top thinkers of the day. Nietzsche set Andreas-Salomé's poem “Hymnus an das Leben” (Hymn to Life) to music in 1882. The love triangle evolved, and at one point the three planned to share a house, intended as a kind of intellectual commune they called the Trinity. The plan never bore fruit, but the tensions inherent in the situation were immortalized in a photograph by Jules Bonnet, of Andreas-Salomé atop a small cart, holding a whip that she wields over the “horses,” Nietzsche and Rée.

Rejected Marriage Proposal

Nietzsche saw Andreas-Salomé as something of an ideal woman whom he could mold into a disciple and partner. He proposed marriage but was rejected, and the relationship eventually deteriorated under the pressure of hostility from Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth. Each partner influenced the other as a writer, however; Andreas-Saloméis mentioned in Nietzsche's Ecce homo (Behold the Man), and Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), written soon after the breakup, was directly credited to Andreas-Salomé's influence. “My disciple became my teacher—the god of irony achieved a perfect triumph!” Nietzsche wrote, according to the Dictionary of Literary Biography. “She inspired me with the thought of Zarathustra: my greatest poem celebrates our union, and our tragic separation.”

As for Andreas-Salomé, her own writing career began to take off in the middle 1880s. While cohabiting with Rée in Berlin, she wrote the autobiographical novel Im Kampf um Gott (1885), using the male pseudonym Henri Lou (for later books she reverted to her own name). The novel features a character, clearly modeled on the blaspheming, life-affirming Nietzsche, who has destructive effects on three women, each of whom reflects an aspect of Andreas-Salomé's own personality. The novel won positive reviews and established Andreas-Salomé as a literary force independent of her famous boyfriends; her relationship with Rée ended in 1885.

In 1887 Andreas-Salomé married the linguistics scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas, after which she hyphenated her last name but put her own surname in the final position. Andreas was one of a number of men who took irrational steps—in his case stabbing himself in the chest with a penknife—during his courtship of Andreas-Salomé. According to many accounts, the marriage was never consummated, and by 1898 the two had separated, although they remained married until Andreas's death in 1930. Andreas-Salomé began to write about the growing Berlin theater scene, and in 1892 she wrote a book, Henrik Ibsens Frauengetstalten (Henrik Ibsen's Female Characters), about the pioneering feminist themes in the work of the Norwegian dramatist. Her 1894 study of Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken (Friedrich Nietzsche in His Works), was well received and consulted for many years. She also published a second novel, Ruth, in 1895.

That year, Andreas-Salomé embarked on an affair with a doctor from Vienna, Friedrich Pineles. Once again her love life provided material for her fiction, which took a decidedly erotic turn in such stories as “Eine Nacht” (One Night). A group of her stories appeared in book form in 1898 under the title Fenitschka. Another cycle, Menschenkinder, translated into English as The Human Family, appeared a year later. She had other sexual adventures and misadventures as well, including one with German playwright Frank Wedekind, in the wake of which the two engaged in mutual literary recriminations in the form of negative characters modeled on each other.

Became Muse to Rilke

The relationship with Pineles was interrupted (although it later resumed) when Andreas-Salomé met poet Rainer Maria Rilke in May of 1898. Although she was 36 and he was 22 years old at the time, the relationship soon turned serious. The two became lovers and traveled together twice to Andreas-Salomé's homeland of Russia, and Andreas-Salomé also exerted influence on Rilke's career just as his mature style was taking shape. She made suggestions that helped give his poetry its characteristic intensity, and she convinced him to take the German name of Rainer; formerly he had had been called René. In 1901 the relationship flamed out as quickly as it had begun, possibly because Andreas-Salomé felt uncomfortable with the degree of worship she was receiving from the younger man. She continued to be productive as a writer and published a novel, Ma: Ein Portrait, in 1901.

Andreas-Salomé wrote several other books in the first decade of the twentieth century, including Im Zwischenland: Fünf Geschichten aus dem Seelenleben halbwüchsiger Mädchen (In-Between Land: Five Stories from the Inner Life of a Half-Grown Girl, 1902) and the nonfiction Die Erotik (The Erotic, 1910), part of a major philosophy and sociology series edited by philosopher Martin Buber. Gradually, however, she began to feel the desire for a second career. The opportunity presented itself in 1911 when, at the Weimar (Germany) Congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association, she met psychoanalysis pioneer Sigmund Freud. At first he was amused by her desire to study psychoanalysis, but she quickly mastered Freud's ideas. According to the Books and Writers Web site, Freud observed that “all the tracks around her go into the Lion's den but none come out.” Nevertheless, he remained the only one of Andreas-Salomé's three major intellectual mentors with whom she did not become romantically involved. The 50-year-old Andreas-Salomé began to attend the meetings of Freud's inner circle, to write essays on psychoanalytic theory and as of 1913, to practice psychoanalysis herself. Her friendship with Freud endured, and by the early 1920s she was widely recognized as an analyst, and, partly as a result of her continuing association with the depressive Rilke, she penned several forwardlooking essays on the relationship between psychology and creativity.

Returning to writing in the 1920s, Andreas-Salomé penned a play, Der Teufel und seine Großmutter (The Devil and His Grandmother, 1922). Most of her later books, however, were nonfiction studies of the authors she had known well: Rainer Maria Rilke (translated as You Alone Are Real to Me) appeared in 1928, and Mein Dank an Freud (My Thanks to Freud) in 1931. In her last years, she wrote a Grundriß einiger Lebenserinnerungen (Outline of Some Life Reminscences, 1933) and a more extensive Lebensrückblick (Life Retrospective), not published until 1951. Andreas-Salomé underwent cancer surgery in 1935 but died of uremia on February 5, 1937, in Göttingen, Germany.

Andreas-Salomé's writings were well known during that time, but then were mostly forgotten. Even with the tremendous revival of interest in writings by women toward the end of the twentieth century, studies of Andreas-Salomé as a creative figure in her own right remain rare. As of the early 2000s, however, there were signs that scholars were beginning to reexamine Andreas-Salomés work. In 2005 University of Alberta professor Ralph G. Whitinger told the Chronicle of Higher Education that “the rediscovery of her fiction has given us an array of her documents that describe the nature of the 1890s second wave of the women's liberation movement—some of the complexities of it, of course, but also the general thrust of it.”


Binion, Rudolph, Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple, Princeton University Press, 1968.

Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature, Prentice Hall, 1992.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 66: German Fiction Writers, 1885-1913, Gale, 1988.

Peters, H. F., My Sister, My Spouse: A Biography of Lou Andreas-Salome, Norton, 1974.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Lou Andreas-Salomé, The Correspondence, tr. Edward Snow and Michael Winkler, Norton, 2006.


Chronicle of Higher Education, October 21, 2005.

Irish Times, September 7, 2002.

Library Journal, April 1, 2003.


“Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937),” Books and Writers, (January 24, 2007).

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Andreas-Salomé, Louise (LOU) (1861-1937)


A Russian writer and essayist, Louise Andreas-Salomé was one of the first practicing psychoanalysts. She was born on February 12, 1861, in St. Petersburg, Russia and died February 5, 1937, in Göttingen, Germany. Louise's father, Gustav von Salomé (57 years old at the time of her birth), of German-French origin, was a general in the service of the tsar. Her mother, Luise Wilm (38 years old at the time of Louise's birth), was from a family of Protestant merchants from Hamburg. Louise, the youngest of four children (she had three older brothers) was raised under feudal family conditions and turned out to be a very willful child. She took refuge in an imaginary world peopled with its own god and threw off the constraints imposed by her family. She refused confirmation and, at the time of her father's death in 1879, turned her back on religion. She shared her existential concerns with her first spiritual teacher, Hendrik Gillot (1836-1916), a fascinating preacher in the Dutch community. It was Gillot who gave Louise the diminutive "Lou." Together they read authors like Baruch Spinoza, whose philosophy helped structure her research in psychoanalysis. However, Gillot's proposal of marriage destroyed their relationship. Her break with Gillot was unequivocal. Lou von Salomé left for Zurich in 1880, where she studied philosophy, history, art, and theology. She outlined her approach to God in her Essays.

When she was 21 she met the philosophers Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche in Rome, at the salon of Malwida von Meysenbug. They wanted to formalize their reciprocal fascination in a working and living community. She replied to Gillot's exhortations, "I am certainly going to shape my own life the way I see it, come what may. . . ." This belief led her to take up psychoanalysis at the age of fifty, after an extremely turbulent life.

Lou Andreas-Salomé's first foray into psychoanalysis was the Neue Quellen ; she found new answers to old questions in her own life, which she had approached especially through literature, for there are a number of autobiographical traces in her writings. Shortly after participating in the 1911 International Psychoanalytic Congress in Weimar, she went to Vienna to become a student of Freud's. In her journal, In der Schule bei Freud (1912-1913), keen observations of social life and critical opinions and personal hypotheses on psychoanalysis appeared side by side. Aside from Freud she was very impressed by Sándor Ferenczi and Viktor Tausk. It was through Tausk that she was able to make her first practical observations at the clinic for nervous disorders in Vienna.

After Vienna, Lou Andreas-Salomé continued to write to Freud on a regular basis and appears to have accepted only Freud as the supervisor of her own cures. After her visit with Freud's family in 1912, she became close with Anna Freud, the focal points of their relationship being Freud the psychoanalyst and Freud the man. They worked together on a subject of common interest, the Tagtraum-Traumdichtung (daydream-dream poem). Anna Freud's presentation to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society for her admission to membership at the society, entitled "Schlagenphantasie und Tagtraum" ("Beating Fantasies and Daydreams"; 1922), was the result of their efforts together and also contributed to Andreas-Salomé's admission to the society. She died on February 5, 1937, in her home in Göttingen, Loufried, where she had lived since 1903 with the Oriental scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas.

Psychoanalysis marked a turning point in the life of Andreas-Salomé, who was immersed in contemporary philosophy, the philosophy of Spinoza, and deeply affected by the theory of the psychoanalytic unconscious and the libido theory. She devoted herself to the insoluble conflict of body and soul, the soma and the psyche, sexuality and the ego, masculine and femininesubjects that appeared in all her psychoanalytic writing between 1911 and 1931. Her style, as exemplified in Narzissmus als Doppelrichtung (1921), was individualisticcapricious, expressive, and poetic. With her representation of a narcissism that was "happy to develop" as a "companion of life that renews being," she completed her work on primary narcissism as a developmental phase and narcissism as a pathological form of self-love. She emphasized the concept of "double direction" that was present in Freud's concept of the libido but which he had not developed further. The libido is in the service of the ego instinct and the "beyond-ego" (the death instinct). In this sense she was ahead of her time. Zum Typus Weib (On the Feminine Type; 1914) regroups her most important ideas on femininity and psychoanalysis. She introduced the feminine point of view into psychoanalytic discourse and focused her interest on the difference between the sexes, a difference that must be considered beyond individual differences. She emphasized the complementarity of relationships. For Andreas-Salomé an androgynous image signified a loss rather than a gain for both sexes. In her essay on femininity she introduced a utopia of feminine culture.

Inge Weber

See also: Bjerre, Poul; Germany; Narcissism; Tausk, Viktor.


Andreas-Salome, Louise. (1964). The Freud journal of Lou Andreas-Salome (Stanley Leavy, Trans.). New York: Basic Books. (Original work published 1958)

. (1990), Das "zweideutige" Lächeln der Erotik. Texte zur Psychoanalyse. Freiburg, Germany: Kore.

. (1983). Open letter to Freud. Paris: Lieu Commun.

. (1991). Looking back: memoirs (Ernst Pfeffer, Ed.; Breon Mitchell, Trans.). Memoirs, New York: Paragon House. (Original work published 1951)

Freud, Sigmund, and Andreas-Salomé, Lou. (1972). Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé: letters (Ernst Pfeffer, Ed.; William and Elaine Robson-Scott, Trans.). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. (Original work published 1966)

Welsch, Ursula, and Wiesner, Michaela. (1988). Lou Andreas-Salomé. Vom Lebensurgrund zur Psychoanalyse. München-Wien-Leipzig: Internationaler psychoanalytischer Verlag.

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"Andreas-Salomé, Louise (LOU) (1861-1937)." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

"Andreas-Salomé, Louise (LOU) (1861-1937)." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . (December 17, 2017).

"Andreas-Salomé, Louise (LOU) (1861-1937)." International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis. . Retrieved December 17, 2017 from