Portrait of

Lou Andreas-Salomé

As seen by

Charlotte Casiraghi
and Sarah Chiche

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For this first edition of the 'Rendez-vous littéraires rue Cambon' [Literary Rendez-vous at Rue Cambon], ambassador and spokesperson for the House Charlotte Casiraghi invites the author Sarah Chiche. Together they paint the portrait of the author and psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé through her work, along with literature historian Fanny Arama.

Lou Andreas-Salomé

Lou Andreas-Salomé (1861-1937) was a writer and psychoanalyst. The intellectuals she met were often disconcerted by her intelligence and charisma. Acclaimed for her psychoanalytical work by Freud, she is the author of an abundant body of work (novels, essays, letters) that has been long overshadowed by her friendships and love affairs with Friedrich Nietzsche and Rainer Maria Rilke.

Sarah Chiche

Sarah Chiche is a writer, clinical psychologist (a graduate of the Paris Diderot University) and psychoanalyst. She is the author of four novels: "L'Inachevée" (Grasset, 2008), "L'Emprise" (Grasset, 2010), "Les Enténébrés" (Seuil, 2019) and "Saturne" (Seuil, 2020), as well as several essays including "Une histoire érotique de la psychanalyse: de la nourrice de Freud aux amants d'aujourd'hui" (Payot, 2018).

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Lou Andreas-Salomé as seen by Sarah Chiche

One woman can hide a thousand others. Thinking her too narcissistic and full of herself would be ignoring the fact that Lou Andreas-Salomé experienced moments of deep vulnerability in her childhood, and many times afterwards. By becoming overly attached to her peers - Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud - of whom she was muse, soul sister and friend, we forget that they would not have been themselves without her. For without her, Friedrich Nietzsche would probably not have written some of the most daring developments in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Without her, Rainer Maria Rilke, who experienced the most beautiful existential, literary and amorous moments by her side, would probably have remained a poet encumbered by the gangue of a language he dared not subvert. Without her, Sigmund Freud would not have theorised certain passages of On Narcissism: An Introduction. Without her, Anna Freud would have remained her father's eternal daughter and would never have published an article of such delirious daring that it allowed her, in turn, to attain the status of theorist. She was attractive, seductive, bewitching, irritating. It is the misfortune of very beautiful women to be judged by their appearance: at first you see only the froth, the commonplace. But Lou did not only have the face of a Madonna. She was beautiful because the qualities of her presence and her listening to those she approached, brought out her beauty. She had, it is said, a way of stripping people of their embarrassment of being themselves, restoring them to their most vivid, authentic, secret self. Perhaps this is a modality of love for one's fellow being, if one accepts that love can be so cutting.

In the Tsar's Russia, her father was a prominent general; cannons were fired when she was born. She could have grown up in the shadow of the court, where she would have belonged. But her place was in the intervening space, in the pure movement of a life that she wanted to be effervescent, ardent, wild. From a very young age, Lou used writing and communication by letters as a weapon, and a refusal to be assigned an identity, a moral code. She wrote. She never stopped, writing novels, essays and literary criticism, scholarly articles and biographies. When her father died, she was still an adolescent. The world in which she gravitated became too small. She travelled. She came home. Then left again. She was seen in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Zurich and Munich. She was invited everywhere but never stayed in one place for long, frequently disappearing. Just when we thought she was in the arms of a lover, she was by the bedside of her dying mother. Just when we imagined she was travelling with her husband Friedrich Carl Andreas, she had gone to Russia with Rilke to meet great writer Leo Tolstoy. She would never be a mother, but tenderly protected Anna Freud. She was never the wife of one man - but for each of them, a bashful lover, friend, master or disciple, theirs alone. She would write about sexuality and eroticism, but often denied herself. She remained married for forty-three years but never had sexual relations with her husband. She would devote herself to psychoanalysis but without ever adoring Freud to the point of losing her independence. She was never just a novelist, an essayist, or a psychoanalyst, but all of these at once, successively and at the same time, gravitating from one world to another, constantly building bridges between literature, poetry, philosophy and psychology. In 1882, she wrote to Paul Rée, "Neither can I conform my life to models nor shall I ever be able to set a model for anyone. But one thing I know for sure is that I shall conduct my life according to what I am, come what may. Doing so, I do not defend a principle but something even more wonderful. Something that lies within us, that burns of the fire of life, jubilant and simply aiming to spring forth."1 May we, now in our time, be imbued with her solar, liberated, comforting words.

Sarah Chiche

1. Lou Andreas-Salomé, Ma vie, Esquisse de quelques souvenirs, translated from French [Ma vie, Esquisse de quelques souvenirs, transl. by D. Miermont and B. Vergne, Paris, © PUF, Photographie © R. Viollet, Design P. Apeloig] by Michel-Guy Gouverneur, 2021.

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Bibliographic record

Lou Andreas-Salomé, About the Female Race,

translated from German by Rebecca DeWald, 2021.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, Friday, 18th August (1882)

translated from German by Rebecca DeWald, 2021.

Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé, A Love Story in Letters,

translated by Edward Snow and Michael Winkler, © W. W. Norton.

Sigmund Freud and Lou Andreas-Salomé, Letters,

translated by William and Elaine Robson-Scott, © W. W. Norton.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, Fénitchka, pp.17-23, translated from French

[Fénitchka, foll. by Une longue dissipation,transl. by Nicole Casanova, © Éditions Des femmes-Antoinette Fouque, 1985] by Michel-Guy Gouverneur, 2021.

Lou Andreas-Salomé, Ma vie, Esquisse de quelques souvenirs,

translated from French [Ma vie, Esquisse de quelques souvenirs, transl. by D. Miermont and B. Vergne, Paris, © PUF, Photographie © R. Viollet, Design P. Apeloig] by Michel-Guy Gouverneur, 2021.

On Narcissism: An Introduction, Sigmund Freud

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