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Rilke & Lou

Lou Andreas Salomé had already been a close companion of Nietzsche’s when the aspiring poet Rainer Maria Rilke sent her a romantic letter.  Lou was married to a Persian studies professor, but she took Rilke in as a lover, study companion and protégé. 

Lou offered personal and poetic encouragement until Rilke made a marriage of his own, with sculptor Clara Westhoff, a student of Rodin’s.  Lou wrote him a scathing ‘Last Appeal’ when she heard of his marriage, but when his marriage collapsed two years later, Rilke sent Lou his book on Rodin—a treatise on creativity and determination—and Lou accepted him back. 


For the next sixteen years, Rilke sought out Lou’s insights into the challenges of transforming experience into art, as well as his romantic disappointments with women whom he seduced with letters, then avoided in person.


In her memoir of Rilke, You Alone Are Real to Me, Lou said that Rilke was “the first truly real person in my life, body and man indivisibly one.” Although she also found “the nakedly honest sentence” an old diary: “‘I’ll be true to my memories forever, but I’ll never be true to other people.’”

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