Lou Salomé, the woman who drove Nietzsche crazy with love

Jewish Link Mexico and Israel – Lou Andreas-Salomé was born in 1861 in a Jewish family, in Saint Petersburg and died in 1937, in Göttingen, Germany. She is considered by many to be the most seductive woman of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She was dedicated to seducing men whom she later abandoned. She drove Nietzsche mad with love. Wedekind portrays her in “Pandora’s Box” that Berg took to the opera. Sinopoli dedicated an opera to him.

He was born into a Jewish family. His father was a Jewish general in the Russian army. Salomé was her only daughter, along with five siblings. Seeking an education beyond what was typical for a woman in that place and time, at the age of seventeen she seduced the German preacher Hendrik Gillot, twenty-five years her senior, to teach her theology, philosophy, religion, and French and German literature. When Gillot fell so in love with Salome that he planned to divorce her wife and marry her, Salome and her mother traveled to Zurich so that she could enter university.

Her mother took her to Rome when she was 21 years old. In a literary salon in the city, she Salomé she met the writer Paul Rée and seduced him. She simultaneously seduced Rée’s close friend, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who was then 38 years old (17 older than her Salomé). The three traveled with Salome’s mother through Italy.

Nietzsche fell madly in love with Salome and asked her to marry him and have a child together. Her answer was negative. “I am free and I am not attached to anyone”.

Salomé did not accept the marriage with Nietzsche and instead proposed to both men in love to join in a trio living together and developing an intellectual work. Nietzsche did not accept the proposal. The three of them took a famous photo together in which Salomé dominates them with a whip.

Salomé and Rée moved to live in Berlin. Nietzsche was totally devastated. His best friend was going to live with the only woman he had ever loved. He wrote her several love letters that Salomé did not reply to. The energies of frustrated love were channeled by Nietzsche in his most brilliant work “Thus Spake Zarathustra”. In this work the image of the whip completely changes. He says “If you go with women don’t forget the whip”. That phrase is an old Arabic proverb that many Muslims apply on a daily basis today.

Nietzsche had begun the descent into the abyss. Shortly thereafter he went into a phase of acute insanity caused by syphilis and two years later he died.

Salomé and Rée lived together for several years in Berlin until she married the linguistics professor Carl Friedrich Andreas. Despite their opposition to the marriage, Salomé and Andreas remained married from 1887 until Andreas’s death in 1930. They entered into a free love relationship.

Salomé was a prolific writer, publishing several novels, plays, and essays. She was also a creative feminist. While married, she had affairs with the German journalist Georg Leedor, the Austro-Hungarian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and the psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Viktor Tausk, among others. She gives an account of many of them in her book Lebensrückblick by her.

His relationship with Rilke was particularly close. Salome was fifteen years older. They met when he was twenty-one. They were lovers for several years and wrote to each other until Rilke’s death.

Another of those who fell under the spell of Lou Salomé was the writer Franz Wedekind. His works on Lulu are inspired by her. Lou is actually Lulu. He wrote “Pandora’s Box” just after being seduced by Lou Salomé in Paris in 1894. Years later Alban Berg would transform Wedekind’s book into his brilliant opera Lulu.

Lou Salomé took a turn in his life after participating in 1911 in the congress of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society.

He settled in Vienna to initiate himself in psychoanalysis. He begins training him under the guidance of Freud who will become his friend and confidant.

Lou became world famous. She was the first distinguished psychoanalyst and the only woman that Freud accepted into the “inner circle” of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The next 25 years, Lou, she will dedicate herself entirely to psychoanalysis, both as a psychoanalyst and as a researcher.

Salome had as suitors the greatest intelligences of her time. She was a great seductress who did not commit to anyone and who always wanted to feel free. Salomé used to say “My obligation is to be free of obligations”. She never felt the desire for motherhood.

Lou Andreas-Salomé acquired notable popularity after the publication, in 1951, of the first German edition of his autobiography, “Retrospective Look”, which Liliana Cavani used to make her film “Beyond Good and Evil” with Dominique Sanda in the role of Salome.

The other film about Salomé (The day Nietzsche cried) dates from 2007, directed by Pinchas Perry. It is based on the fictional work “When Nietzsche Wept” (1992) by the North American psychoanalyst Irvin D. Yalom, who simulates the meeting of the Austrian physiologist and psychologist Josef Breuer, colleague and teacher of the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, with the revolutionary philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.


In the spring of 1882, the young and dazzling Lou Salomé organizes a mysterious appointment with Josef Breuer, a famous Viennese doctor, with the aim of saving the life of a certain Friedrich Nietzsche, a tormented German philosopher, almost unknown but with a brilliant future, who manifests suicidal tendencies. Breuer, influenced by the innovative theories of his young protégé Sigmund Freud, accepts the dangerous strategy that Salomé proposes: to psychoanalyze Nietzsche without his realizing it.

The main protagonists of the film are Salome, Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer.

It’s not a great movie but it’s interesting because all the dialogues are copies of Nietzsche’s texts. The best thing about the film is the performance as Salome by the alluring and mesmerizing Katheryn Winnick who tackles the part.

Salomé is the protagonist of the opera “Lou Salomé” by Giuseppe Sinopoli, premiered in 1981 at the Bayerischen Staatsoper in Munich. The work is a psychological analysis of Salomé’s personality through music. Salome is presented with the psychological illness of the inability to know herself, which for Kierkegard is one of the most terrifying forms of mental illness. A good part of the text is taken from works by Nietzsche. The opera deserves to be performed more often. Unfortunately Sinopoli died of a heart attack while conducting at the Berlin Opera. There is an excellent recording of suites No. 1 and 2 with Sinopoli conducting the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra. The singers are Lucia Popp and José Carreras.

Salomé will always be an example of a rebellious and independent woman, a free woman who goes her own way and always does what she wants without caring about others. She only thinks of herself and seduces for fun or whim without being in love. She closely resembles the Carmen from Merimee’s novel and Bizet’s opera. “Carmen was born free and free she will die.”

Pedro Beltrán is the author of the book “History of Sexuality”.

The opinions, beliefs and points of view expressed by the author in the opinion articles, and the comments therein, do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial line of Enlace Judío. Reproduction authorized with the following mention: ©EnlaceJudío

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