February 10, 2012

SLIDESHOW: Should a true friend be cruel? Lars Iyer praises the frenemy


Should your best friends also be cruel? At The GuardianLars Iyer (Spurious, Dogma) praises the frenemy in literature and in life:

“‘In your friend you should possess your best enemy’, Nietzsche writes. What a remarkable thing to say! This is a concept of friendship radically different from the smugly narcissistic friendship collectives of Facebook. Nietzsche’s true friend is someone who challenges you deeply, who badgers, bothers, enrages, and insults you – an antagonist who is not content to leave you be. In the last few years, a bit of slang that describes this relationship has wormed its way into the Oxford English Dictionary: a frenemy.

“My novels, Spurious, Dogma, and the forthcoming Exodus, relate the adventures of two such frenemies, maverick philosophy lecturers W and Lars, who travel through Britain and overseas, bantering and bitching as they go. Of the two characters, it is W who is more obviously cruel, claiming that Lars is lazy, morbidly obese, and has a low IQ, as well as terrible sartorial sense. But Lars, it has been suggested, shows a special cruelty of his own, his frenmity apparent in the deadpan way he narrates the novels, allowing the wildly idealistic, failure-loving W to hoist himself by his own petard. For my part, I find their fren-ship a refreshing alterative to the bland support networks of ‘kidults’ locked in positive feedback loops of mutual reassurance. True friendships should contain an element of the cruel and cutting. The oddly refreshing antagonism of frenemies is something I look for in life, and in the literature I read.”

Here’s a slideshow of Iyer’s ten favorite examples of literary frenemies.