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  • Friendship: CorrespondencesIntroduction
  • Jessica Ruffin

My condition is ghastly. I fear so terribly the evanescence of that which is most dear to me, what appears to me as the meaning or fulfillment of my existence. Do you believe in the eternal duration of our friendship? It would always need to be presence, living presence, and how could that be?

Siegfried Kracauer to Theodor Adorno, April 5, 1923

Perhaps Adorno and Kracauer were more than friends, at least for a time, but their letters are where this project Friendship: Correspondences began. While the above excerpt is quite raw in its tone, other letters by "Friedel" and "Teddie," as they called each other, are more scholarly—tinged with a cool professionalism that requires us never-intended readers to sense the pain and longing beneath and between the lines. All of their correspondences, though, are the between of these thinkers' finished and published works. Friendship, it becomes clear, is often an unseen condition of scholarly and creative production—until you die and become an archive, that is. Through [End Page 431] this dossier's exchanges and correspondences, we seek to make friendship visible for the living.

The works in the following pages range in tone from an ice cream cone shared on a hot day to passionate debates carried long into the night, moments we share with our friends. Thomas Laqueur asks, "Why is a dog a man's best friend?," charting answers through ancient history, art, and literature. Laqueur's human best friend, Alexander Nehamas, responds to the question and Laqueur's text, offering playful insight and new questions for consideration. Friends and artists Amy Fung-yi Lee and Kiran Chandra carry out a visual conversation, again starting with a question: "How do you draw a frog?" And in "'A Picture of Peace,'" Courtney Sato explores the politics of friendship in the interwar Pacific via intimate archives of scrapbooks and correspondences. The dossier concludes with an experimental text composed by myself and editorial board member and former chief editor Simone Stirner over the course of a few weeks, in which we grapple with friendship as a concept that seemingly resists presence, all while navigating our own needs for belonging and recognition.

Friendship, in these pieces, is made visible, quite literally, not only through the publication of correspondence but also through the production and engagement with visual art: paintings, drawings, etchings, and photography. Between these images and words, friendship perhaps achieves the enduring presence Kracauer wished for, or not. [End Page 432]



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pp. 431-432
Launched on MUSE
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