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Zarathustra's Sisters

Zarathustra's Sisters: Women's Autobiography and the Shaping of Cultural History

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Zarathustra's Sisters
    Book Description:

    Analyzes the literary, cultural, and ethical effects of six woman writers - Nadezhda Mandel'shtam, Romola Nijinsky, Simone de Beauvoir, Lou Andreas-Salome, Asja Lacis, and Maitreyi Devi - whose lives were twined with the cultural vibrations of their time

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8378-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Zarathustraʹs Sisters
    (pp. 3-22)

    The six women who serve as subject for this study share the experience of being in and writing about a relationship with a man who is significant to the tradition of western letters. One would be justified in expecting a critical survey of the extent to which their reception has been shaped by their relationships. Simone de Beauvoir is also known as ʹla grande Sartreuse.ʹ⁴ Lou Andreas-Salomeʼs name is often found with the further hyphenation ʹNietzsche-Rilke-Freud.ʹ⁵ Mandelʼshtam and Nijinsky are generally taken to be the names of the renowned Russians poet Osip and dancer Vaslav, not of their wives, Nadezhda...

  6. Prototypically Zarathustrian: A Prologue
    (pp. 23-30)

    InEcce HomoNietzsche claims that the first part ofZarathustraʹovertookʹ him in ten tumultuous days in January 1883. While the actual length of Nietzscheʼs creative outburst has been questioned, that it occurred in the traumatic aftermath of his encounter with Lou Salome has not. Not only does their story make manifest the socio-historical stakes inherent in the designation ʹZarathustraʼs sisters,ʹ but it allows us to redress the nebulous status of the biographical in scholarship. Before proceeding to the sisters themselves, let me first set the stage by turning to the romantic circumstances surroundingZarathustraʼsconception and the consideration...


    • CHAPTER ONE Lou Andreas-Salomé
      (pp. 33-45)

      When her memoirs were first published in 1951, fourteen years after her death, under the editorship of her literary executor, Ernst Pfeiffer, Lou Andreas-Salomé was a forgotten remnant of a lost age. Born Luise von Salomé in St Petersburg on 12 February 1861, just as Russia was emancipating its serfs and almost exactly five years after it had lost the Crimean War, this not particularly dutiful daughter of a Germanic Balt, highly placed in the service of the tsars Nicholas I and Alexander II, was to let nothing and no one tie her down. The youngest of six children, and...

    • CHAPTER TWO Simone de Beauvoir
      (pp. 46-60)

      Another highly programmatic, highly stylized, and highly fragmented cultural icon, Simone de Beauvoir also left behind an autobiographical legacy, a comparative reading of which mutually illuminates both its own and Lou Andreas-Saloméʼs anticipatory stance.²

      As befitted her haut bourgeois background, Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was given many names at her christening, but unlike little Luise von Salomé, her motherʼs name wasnʼt one of them.³ While both were, theoretically, of similarly minor nobility, the situation into which the young Mile Bertrand de Beauvoir was born on 8 January 1908 was neither as serene nor as secure as that...


    • CHAPTER THREE Maitreyi Devi
      (pp. 65-76)

      Sreemati Maitreyi Devi was born in the coastal town of Chittagong in what was then known as East Bengal on 1 September 1914, just as retreating British troops were settling into their trenches in preparation for the First Battle of the Marne. European history was to have little effect on her, however. Although India sent more than a million troops in support of its colonial masters, the great majority were from the Punjab; Bengalʼs share was a mere 7,000. It was the European tradition of learning, not its history, that was to leave a more delible mark on Maitreyi.


    • CHAPTER IV Asja Lacis
      (pp. 77-90)

      Anna Ernestovna Lacis was born on a country estate in Latvia on 19 October 1891, the same year as three of the individuals we will encounter in the third part of this study: Romola and Bronislava Nijinsky and Osip Mandelʼshtam. The circumstances into which Lacis was born, however, were considerably humbler; in fact, they were by far the humblest of any in this study. Her mother wove and dyed blankets, gardened, sang sad hymns, and suffered, while her father was off repairing the gentryʼs furs and saddles. The progressive socialist proclivities of the latter ensured that his only daughter received...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Nadezhda Mandelʼshtam
      (pp. 95-109)

      Nadezhda lakovlevna Khazina and Osip Emilovich Mandelʼshtam met on May Day 1919, in the Junk Shop, the artsy drinking establishment in civil-war-torn Kiev that the nineteen-year-old Nadezhda and her avant-garde painting companions habitually frequented. The poet, eight years her senior, was passing through town on his way to the Crimea, and the two, as Nadezhda Mandelʼshtam tells it, ‘at once took up with each other as though it were the most natural thing in the world’ (HA 28). And why not? They had much in common. Both came from pampered, Jewish bourgeois backgrounds. Osipʼs father had been so successful a...

    • CHAPTER SIX Romola Nijinsky
      (pp. 110-126)

      In the history of the ballet, the figure of Vaslav Nijinsky makes the impression of the kind of blade of grass or wood chip that Nadezhda Mandelʼshtam would have had great empathy for - carried along by a turbulent stream but nonetheless engaged in a struggle to maintain internal freedom and in doing so perceptibly altering the ballet world. Generally regarded as one of the greatest male ballet dancers of all time, the tragic piquancy of Nijinskyʼs fall into madness subsequent to being dismissed from Diaghilevʼs Ballets Russes guaranteed his legendary status. It is not owing to his spectacular jumps...

  10. CONCLUSION: Autobiographical Writing and the Postmodern
    (pp. 127-142)

    In the previous chapters I have explored a form of documentary self-representation that proceeds, and understands itself, as cultural engagement. I have read the autobiographical texts of women who have intervened into their surrounding literary culture by textualizing as true a life-story that both was and was not their own. The subjects of the first part, Lou Andreas-Salomé and Simone de Beauvoir, wrote to entrench themselves as established, iconoclastic writers; the second pair, Maitreyi Devi and Asja Lacis, have been written as women responding to situations of portrayal turned betrayal; and finally, Nadezhda Mandelʼshtam and Romola Nijinsky wrote as wives...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 143-168)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-190)
  13. Index
    (pp. 191-197)