The Truth About Lou: A (Necessary) Fiction
In late 19th-century Germany, the passionate Louise “Lou” Salomé, writer, seeker, and friend to Nietzsche, Freud and Prague poet Rilke sought a utopian world of philosophy and intellectual freedom for all. Despite a traumatic preteen “crush” on her Confirmation minister, Lou was drawn toward male company, seeking beyond the physical, despite living with friend Paul Ree and bruising her reputation. Her reverence for great philosophers did not prevent her from refusing two offers of (temporary) marriage from Nietzsche himself. Convention and security won out eventually when she agreed to marry Fred Andréas but only with the proviso of an unconsummated arrangement. Her heart (and body) would not surrender until Rainer Maria Rilke’s youthful ebullience and poetic words took hold in her psyche.
Lou’s story is a storm of passionate ideas and opera-sized emotions in a time when intellectual women were viewed with scorn. “Lou” herself narrates this novel, but there are “interludes” from modern (fictional) writer, Anna Kane, investigating the provenance of a gift from her dying grandmother: a first edition of Rilke’s The Book of Hours, inscribed “To Lou…from your old Rainer.” Lou’s story overpowers the modern thread until the very end, where it satisfies at last. This is an imaginative and ambitious work, although possibly overwhelming for readers hearing of Lou for the first time.