On taking people as they should be


    If we just take people as they are . . . we make them worse;  but, if we treat them not as they are but as they should be, we help them to become what they can become.

Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship: Book 8, chapter 4 (1796)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by Eric A. Blackall and Victor Lange
(p. 326 in the 1995 Princeton University Press edition)


1787 portrait of Goethe by Angela Kaufmann

In the night, unable to sleep . . .


      In the night, unable to sleep on the overcrowded train, it became clear that he was really going for the sake of his childhood, hoping to find something in those old streets: a doorway, a tower, a fountain, anything to induce some joy or sorrow by which he might recognize himself again.

Rainer Maria Rilke, "A Story Told to the Dark" (from Stories of God, 1900), translated by M.D. Herter Norton

The bridge in the photograph is in Prague, where Rilke spent the first 21 years of life. He then went to Munich to study art history and there met Lou Andreas-Salome, who became his lover and then, for the rest of his life, his most trusted and important confidante. Her support and encouragement, through Rilke's long periods of doubt and depression, enabled him to complete the Duino Elegies. A new film tells the story of their relationship.


How do I imagine love?


That is quite uncomplicated--very simple and wholesome. I would compare it with things that are least demonic or romantic, like the daily bread that is blessed and stills our hunger, like the stream of air that comes into our homes to refresh us. In short, with that which is most important, most beautiful and most natural, on which we most depend and about which we do not need to engage in empty rhetoric.

Lou Andreas-Salome, Fenitschka
Translated by Dorothee Einstein Krahn
(University Press of America, 1990), p. 19

Lou Andreas-Salome (1861-1937) was a German novelist and critic and a pioneering psychoanalyst to whom Freud sometimes referred patients. She was also a close confidante of Nietzsche and Rilke. 'Lou Andreas-Salome: The Audacity to Be Free', a new film based on her extraordinary life, will be released in the United States in Spring 2018.



"Fenitschka" is set in St. Petersburg in the 1890s (Painting by Eugene Lushpin)