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Contrary to general belief, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who got there first. Most of my friends have faults which are all the more blatant because of their proximity, and yet they are people you are never out for if they ring. Even with your drunk, you (his alter ego) let him into your dressing-room on three different occasions because you were animated by ancient and guilty feelings of friendship. And yet there are many people you meet casually with whom you could be the best of friends if only you had met them sooner. All in all, I don’t believe you choose your friends any more than you choose your parents. After all, if you were able to choose your friends with the same application and caution with which you choose your wife, you’d have antagonized most of them years ago, and lost them. No, no, you drift into friendships, and there is no divorce. You are stuck with most of them for life. And friendship revives quickly even after a long absence, often with people who are entirely reprehensible, unreliable and even spiteful.

· Does that mean you are opposed to friendship?

On the contrary, I wouldn’t know what to do without it. Sometimes a friend will ask, usually after making a normal gesture to which he wishes to attribute abnormal or even charitable characteristics, “After all, what are friends for?” I’ll tell him what friends are for. They are there to remind each and every one of us of the imperfections which surround us, of the vagaries of human nature, the unpleasantness of which man is capable, the meanness, the narrowness, the hypocrisy of society; and they also teach us to forgive, but never to forget. We would all be lost without friendship.

Peter Ustinov (from his autobiography Dear Me, 1977)

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