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Lou von Salomé: A Biography of the Woman Who Inspired Freud, Nietzsche and Rilke

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The daughter of an illustrious Russian general, Lou von Salomé left her home in the heart of Tsarist Russia to conquer intellectual Europe at the tender age of 18. Eventually settling in Germany, she became a best-selling novelist, a groundbreaking essayist and a well-known literary critic. In addition to all this, Salomé was a real-life muse for some of the most brilliant The daughter of an illustrious Russian general, Lou von Salomé left her home in the heart of Tsarist Russia to conquer intellectual Europe at the tender age of 18. Eventually settling in Germany, she became a best-selling novelist, a groundbreaking essayist and a well-known literary critic. In addition to all this, Salomé was a real-life muse for some of the most brilliant men of her time. This biography tells the story of Salomé's entire life and career, focusing on her young adulthood; celibate marriage with linguistics scholar Carl Friedrich Andreas; rumored affairs with Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainier Maria Rilke and several other authors and poets; and her relationship with Sigmund Freud, which was marked most notably by their contrasting views of psychoanalysis.


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The daughter of an illustrious Russian general, Lou von Salomé left her home in the heart of Tsarist Russia to conquer intellectual Europe at the tender age of 18. Eventually settling in Germany, she became a best-selling novelist, a groundbreaking essayist and a well-known literary critic. In addition to all this, Salomé was a real-life muse for some of the most brilliant The daughter of an illustrious Russian general, Lou von Salomé left her home in the heart of Tsarist Russia to conquer intellectual Europe at the tender age of 18. Eventually settling in Germany, she became a best-selling novelist, a groundbreaking essayist and a well-known literary critic. In addition to all this, Salomé was a real-life muse for some of the most brilliant men of her time. This biography tells the story of Salomé's entire life and career, focusing on her young adulthood; celibate marriage with linguistics scholar Carl Friedrich Andreas; rumored affairs with Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainier Maria Rilke and several other authors and poets; and her relationship with Sigmund Freud, which was marked most notably by their contrasting views of psychoanalysis.

30 review for Lou von Salomé: A Biography of the Woman Who Inspired Freud, Nietzsche and Rilke

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Kiernan

    She was the muse and lifelong desire of Frederich Nietzsche. She was the lover of Rilke. She was a colleague of Freud's. And she became close with each of these men largely BEFORE they achieved fame. This biography captures the charisma, determination, and power of a woman who was central to European thought in the late 1800s and thereafter, yet who remains remarkably little known. Lou von Salome was the daughter of a Russian general. Beautiful and brilliant, she became a popular novelist but ha She was the muse and lifelong desire of Frederich Nietzsche. She was the lover of Rilke. She was a colleague of Freud's. And she became close with each of these men largely BEFORE they achieved fame. This biography captures the charisma, determination, and power of a woman who was central to European thought in the late 1800s and thereafter, yet who remains remarkably little known. Lou von Salome was the daughter of a Russian general. Beautiful and brilliant, she became a popular novelist but had larger visions. Meanwhile men in all directions threw themselves at her, from the religious teacher of her childhood, to scholars and writers all over Europe, to the man she joined in a marriage that was never consummated. (In fact when he fathered a child with their housekeeper, mother and daughter remained with Lou into adulthood.) Finally at 36, she lost her virginity to Rilke, who was 12 years younger and more of a depressive dependent than the spectacular romantic poet he would eventually become. How many affairs she had after that is not clear, but it seems that sex was part of her power and part of how she drew near to remarkable men. This book does not entirely make clear what Lou's particular allure was, nor how she spotted the potential for brilliance with such uncanny foresight. And sometimes the prose becomes academic in tone, quoting other scholars for example. But here is a woman who recognized and galvanized some of the great minds in modern European history. She deserves to stand in history beside those whom she inspired to greatness.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    I can not believe another 5 star book in the same month. Ths was so much more than a bio on Lou von Salome. it was filled with mini bios on so many other people of her time. She was new to me but i knew most of the other people she came into contact with in her lifetime. This was a very slow read as i had to read and reread so many parts to be sure to understand what i was reading. She got my immediate attention at the beginniing with her GOD IS DEAD belief. I would not want to have her mind as I can not believe another 5 star book in the same month. Ths was so much more than a bio on Lou von Salome. it was filled with mini bios on so many other people of her time. She was new to me but i knew most of the other people she came into contact with in her lifetime. This was a very slow read as i had to read and reread so many parts to be sure to understand what i was reading. She got my immediate attention at the beginniing with her GOD IS DEAD belief. I would not want to have her mind as i am sure it would drive most people mad . To analize each and every thing we think or do is JUST TOO MUCH for me. I had expected this to be mostly about Freud but he was only in the last few chapters. Nietzsche was much more interesting. Want to read this again in a few months time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allyson

    It took me a while to get through this and it was only 200 odd pages. I found the writing was weak and the idolisation of Lou von Salome a little hard to stomach. There seemed to be little critical engagement and rather too much gushing. Strange that Salome is now so little known, but then that is what tends to happen to 'muses' who move in the circles of famous men. Salome's own fictional writing, which Vickers paraphrases rather than critically assessing, is no longer readily available in Engl It took me a while to get through this and it was only 200 odd pages. I found the writing was weak and the idolisation of Lou von Salome a little hard to stomach. There seemed to be little critical engagement and rather too much gushing. Strange that Salome is now so little known, but then that is what tends to happen to 'muses' who move in the circles of famous men. Salome's own fictional writing, which Vickers paraphrases rather than critically assessing, is no longer readily available in English translation. What does remain are her psychoanalytical writings and the correspondence with Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud along with her assessments of Rilke and Nietzsche, and this, I would hazard, has more to do with the male correspondents and objects of study. There were a lot of errors in the copy, which acted as a further detraction. Overall this book was a great disappointment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo Walton

    Lou Andreas-Salome is a fascinating person who had a life so unusual for a woman of her time and place that it would be utterly implausible in fiction. I ran across her first in the context of Freud, and then in the context of Rilke, and then I bought her letters and then I went looking for this to round out a little more context. This book will do this, but it's not a deep look at Lou, or the period, or the significance of her own work. I found the shallowness disappointing, and the evidence of Lou Andreas-Salome is a fascinating person who had a life so unusual for a woman of her time and place that it would be utterly implausible in fiction. I ran across her first in the context of Freud, and then in the context of Rilke, and then I bought her letters and then I went looking for this to round out a little more context. This book will do this, but it's not a deep look at Lou, or the period, or the significance of her own work. I found the shallowness disappointing, and the evidence of hasty construction -- this book doesn't appear to have been proofread at all, and that drew attention to the way it seems similarly sloppily written. Lou is sufficiently fascinating to make it worthwhile anyway, but I wish she'd had a biographer worthy of her. Maybe next time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Norbert

    While the editing was more than questionable at times and I had a hard time identifying the perspective from which Lou's story was being told, the narrative was fascinating. Vickers included brief summaries of many of von Salome's writings of the time (along with those of her acquaintances and love interests), all of which helped lend a fuller and more personal aspect to the biography despite somewhat muddling the objective nature of most nonfiction. For this reason, the book reads more like lit While the editing was more than questionable at times and I had a hard time identifying the perspective from which Lou's story was being told, the narrative was fascinating. Vickers included brief summaries of many of von Salome's writings of the time (along with those of her acquaintances and love interests), all of which helped lend a fuller and more personal aspect to the biography despite somewhat muddling the objective nature of most nonfiction. For this reason, the book reads more like literary journalism than anything else, with the author as an outside observer who gets sucked into the fascinating personality of Lou in the same way that Rilke, Freud, Nietzsche, Ree, Gillot, and I did.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rainwen

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joost Perreijn

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jessi

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cordelia Tok

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

  13. 5 out of 5

    Boris

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marcia Leavitt

  15. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Harris

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lisa V. Munoz

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ryszard Nieoczym

  18. 5 out of 5

    Soline

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cloris

  20. 5 out of 5

    Antoine

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ad Vilmente

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sqela

  23. 4 out of 5

    esperanza saguar

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gizem Gündüz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shona

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frau Mary hellga

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Finley

  29. 5 out of 5

    Su (Yizhen) Fu

  30. 5 out of 5

    Yiyang Sun

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