The Immortality of Birds
by Laura Rudish
What's the book about?
Set in glittering capitals of late 19th century Europe, this is the real-life coming of age story
of Lou Andreas-Salomé, the brilliant and willful young visionary who inspired Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud.
As a young aristocrat in Tsarist Russia, Lou’s family, class, and country conspire to preordain her fate. But when her beloved father dies unexpectedly, she vows to reject all convention and instead forge a groundbreaking path of personal and spiritual freedom.
Her charisma attracts unlikely allies, including the most radical geniuses of her generation, who help her to break free while also presenting new traps of their own. From St. Petersburg to Rome, Paris, and Berlin—in a time of political turmoil and deep technological shifts not unlike our own—Lou is the forerunner who shatters every expectation of what it means to be a woman as she struggles to create her identity at the dawn of the modern age.
The tale unfolds from a Bavarian hideaway, where she weaves an imaginative life story for her first lover, emerging poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Through a kaleidoscope of memory within memory that spans the decade of her young adulthood, Lou comes to embrace a deeper journey, one that leads back to her own heart.
As a 67,000-word work of historical literary fiction, The Immortality of Birds may appeal to readers of Amelia Gray’s Isadora (2017) and George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo (2017). Lou’s life has inspired an opera, several novels and an award-winning film (Germany, 2016), but this is the first novel about her coming of age.
An excerpt of The Immortality of BIrds has appeared in Podium, the literary journal of New York’s 92nd St Y, and my published poems include a Pushcart Prize Finalist. I hold an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and co-founded Poetry OtherWise, a writing conference held in England for seven years.