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Meyer, B.C. (1970). Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple: By Rudolph Binion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. 587 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 39:304-314.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:304-314

Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple: By Rudolph Binion. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. 587 pp.

Review by:
Bernard C. Meyer

A biography bearing such a subtitle with its hint of promiscuity or delinquency invites attentive reading; the knowledge that it concerns a woman whose bounty was matched by brain and beauty offers the promise of irresistible fascination. Indeed an attitude of anticipation is the natural response to the advent of a new biography of Lou Andreas-Salomé, a woman of unusual gifts who, during a lifetime spanning nearly half of the last and more than a third of the present century, succeeded in collecting—and nearly as often discarding—a most impressive array of eminent personages of both sexes. Heralded as a psychoanalytic study, Mr. Binion's book should carry an appeal beyond that evoked by the turbulence and razzle-dazzle of her peripatetic career that left in its wake an assortment of nervous wreckage including a few suicides. The fact that 'Lou' was one of the first of her sex to become a disciple of Freud should invite the expectation of a richly documented and psychologically sophisticated work. Unfortunately, these expectations are less than fully realized.

Richly documented it is, but like a goose intended to produce foie gras the book is stuffed to the bursting point. Footnotes and text are crammed indiscriminately with trivia and irrelevancies side by side with matters of genuine interest and value, giving the impression of an author who doesn't know wheat from chaff and is therefore reluctant to discard a single fact or trim a single quote. Hence, while such forced feeding may produce an exquisite pâté, no such gustatory delight awaits the reader to whom this ponderous and bloodless work may prove indigestible and its subject boring—itself no mean achievement in light of her life story and the reputed 'magic of her personality'. Psychologically sophisticated, moreover, it isn't, as will soon be evident.

Commenting on Lou's own fictional writing, a critic once complained that her books 'lacked the color of life', a formulation which is no less applicable to the present biography. But, when the same critic attributed this lifelessness to her 'excessive emphasis on psychological factors', he was surely in error, as any reader of Dostoevski knows.

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