Salomé was an incredibly important philosopher of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her writings span a great number of topics and styles and influenced many canonical thinkers such as Freud and Nietzsche. Though we may not be aware of it just yet, her influence on the German Tradition is profoundly deep. She prefigures contemporary feminist debates and brings women into the psychoanalytic sphere of thought and writing from which they were previously disregarded. Not only is her thought largely understudied, but her works are scarcely translated. And so, I bring you the first translation of Ma, Ein Porträt, a novel rich in philosophy and beautifully written, studying the freedom and life of four women. 

Novel Summary

The novel follows the journey of Marianne—affectionately nicknamed ‘Ma’—as her youngest daughter, Sophie, decides to move abroad after finishing high school. The reader follows Cita (the oldest daughter), Dr. Tomasow (Marianne’s therapist), and Aunt Ottilie (Marianne’s sister) through a few emotional Christmas days. Each character ponders motherhood, womanhood, marriage, family, and more as Sophie comes to her decision and shares it with her family. By the end, Marianne transforms from a woman dependent on a man and family relations into a self-sufficient woman who chooses to be a mother and can confidently reject a marriage proposal. 

I propose that this novel is a particularly important work insofar as it is a fictional instantiation of her most famous philosophical work Der Mensch als Weib. Insofar as we observe Salomé’s fictional concepts play out in the real world, as it were, we can gain a greater understanding of how she understands Woman, selfhood, motherhood, and freedom (for gendered individuals).

Lou Andreas-Salomé in 1897

[images throughout the website are taken from "Lou Andreas-Salomé." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Mar. 2024, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Andreas-Salom%C3%A9].

[Andreas-Salomé, Lou. Ma, Ein Porträt.  J.G. Cotta’schen, Stuttgart, 1901.  First edition.]