July 26, 2021

Friendship in literature

Many times it is the popular lyrics that hit the mark. Perhaps they are less dense than the literary ones, but the advantageous variant is that now they are more affordable than books, because of the cost or because the bookstores were closed for a long time due to the virus. On YouTube and at any time you can find Kenny Rogers singing a duet with Dolly Parton the song “You can’t make old friends”

“You can’t make old friends / what will I do when you’re gone? / Who’s going to tell me the truth? / Who’s going to finish the stories that I start / the way you always do? / When someone new knocks on the door / I will smile and shake hands / but you can’t make old friends / you can’t make old friends… ”sing those two country music legends.

That compassionate and somewhat bleak lyrics may mean that life has cycles and that you should cultivate friendships when you are young. When the sensitivity is malleable, but no longer when the water passed under the bridges and the land is denied for sowing.

This popular testimony does not leave aside the many that philosophy and good literature have given since antiquity. Socrates advised his disciples: “Be slow when entering a friendship, but when you are inside, continue steadfast and steady.”

The Greeks considered friendship as one of the noblest virtues. Cicero outlined the different concepts of friendship in Greece: in heroic times it was the link that united two warriors who fought together; also the feeling of camaraderie that united fellow students. Plato saw friendship as the common impulse of two souls pursuing an ideal. Aristotle considered friendship as a personal sign of rational beings.

C.S. Lewis / web

Aristotle delved into the theme of friendship. He said that “the friend is another me” and dedicated several texts to the matter. “The presence of friends in good fortune leads us to spend time pleasantly and to be aware that friends enjoy our good. That is why we must invite them to our joys, because it is noble to do good to others, and (instead) to avoid inviting them to participate in our misfortunes, because evils should be shared as little as possible ”.

“The presence of friends in good fortune leads to spending time pleasantly”

With the arrival and establishment of Christianity, friendship lost a good part of its gravitation, which became more concentrated in conjugal love, family love and, fundamentally, love of God and the ideals of that religion. On this historical axis turned one of the works written by Clive Stapes Lewis (1896-1963), better known by CSLewis who in 1960 wrote “The Four Loves”, a memorable essay on human love.

J.R.R. Tolkien / web

Lewis divides the subject of love into four categories, drawn from many other words in the Greek language: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. The latter is defined by the same author as “love of God.”

In keeping with early Christian doctrine, Lewis maintains that the first three categories (affection, friendship, eros, or passionate love the latter) are not durable and tend to self-destruct, because this is determined by the imperfect human condition. On the other hand, only divine love, the fourth step, is what sublimates the human being.


Nothing more attractive – and not easy to imagine – than the friendship of Don Quixote, the dreamer, with Sancho Panza, the pragmatist. Cervantes had in all his work a deep treatment of friendship. In the case of Don Quixote, he makes him use the word “friend” to notify Sancho Panza that he chose him to be governor of the island of Barataria: “You must know, friend Sancho Panza, that it was a very used custom of the ancient knights errant make governors of his squires of the islands or kingdoms that won and I have determined that for me there is no lack of such grateful use, before I think to take advantage of it ”.

Another great one, William Shakespeare, advised: “The friends you have and whose friendship you have already put to the test, hook them to your soul with hooks of steel.”

The always scandalizing and funny Oscar Wilde bet strongly in favor of the value of friendship: “I don’t want to go to heaven; none of my friends are there. Although more earthly he had said shortly before: “A true friend stabs you in the front”, making it clear here that the sincerity of those closest to him is annoying, because they tend to tell the truths that nobody wants to hear.

One of the last humanists of our time, Albert Camús, pointed out: “Don’t walk behind me, I may not guide you. Do not walk ahead of me, I can not follow you. Just walk by my side and be my friend.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Another cultist of friendship was Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “Yes. You are one more child, like many others. You don’t need me and I don’t need you. But if you tame me, you will be unique. I will feel a need for you and you will feel a need for me ”says the Fox to the Little Prince. .

This is how one of the most famous and emblematic parts of “The Little Prince” is described, the friendship that unites the protagonist with the fox found in the desert. Here the fox asks him to be tamed, to be able to establish a friendship, so that both need each other.

And Gabriel García Márquez cultivated the sense of friendship obsessively. Like any self-absorbed writer, he suffered isolation, but thought about the exit door: “The loneliness of the writer is very great. Sometimes it takes you out of the world. And that I try to grab! For example: I cling to friends, old friends, I try to be faithful to them ”.

“I cling to friends, old friends, I try to be faithful to them,” said García Márquez


Jorge Castañeda in his writing “Friendship in Argentine literature” maintains that this theme “has been present either in the context of an entire work or in passages of others, reaching pages of great lyricism and quality, which already make up the classical canon of our literature ”.

Here he first mentions Fausto, by Estanislao del Campo, who records the friendly dialogue of two gauchos: one is who witnessed the opera in Buenos Aires and the other is the one who listens to that story.

He speaks after the friendship of Don Segundo Sombra, in the work of Ricardo Güiraldes, with the reserito Fabio Cáceres, that he learns everything from that older man and that friendship, says Castañeda, is the great protagonist of the book. It rescues the end, when Fabián says goodbye to his friend and godfather who is leaving, to express that “On the black dot of the hat, my eyes clung to make that delay last. Useless, something blurred my vision, perhaps the effort, and a light full of small vibrations spread over the plain. Focusing my will on the execution of small deeds, I turned my horse and slowly left for the houses. I left, like who is bleeding ”.

Albert Camus

Castañeda also mentions the noble friendship woven in the misadventure between Martín Fierro and Cruz. The latter is dying of smallpox in the tolderías and Fierro sings it like this: “The memory torments me / my regret is renewed / it makes me want to cry / nothing to my pain the same / Cruz also fell very bad / no longer to get up. Everyone can imagine / how much I had to suffer / I was only moaning / and increasing my grief / not knowing a prayer / to help him die well. He held him against his chest / dominated by pain / it was his greatest sorrow / when he died there among the infidels / suffering cruel pains / gave his soul to the Creator. On my knees by his side / I entrusted him to Jesus / the light was missing from my eyes / I had a terrible faint / I fell as if wounded by lightning / when I saw him dead at Cruz ”.

Friendship threads chains of men and women. Chains that make you feel free, that do not enslave. Now the pandemic is making those chains break and there are many loose links, the men and women shipwrecked, discouraged, who are feeling captive without the company of the “other selves.” The pandemic will be over when each link can once again be part of a chain of friendship.