Similarities among foes

Famous Foes


#09 Freundschaft


Imke Borchers


Gerd Schröder



Close associations aren’t the sole domain of friends. Enemies too can share certain affinities – in the form of similar interests, similar circumstances and similar needs. Sometimes amity and enmity are only divided by one small step: an insult, an act of rejection, an affront. And then nothing can ever be the same again.

"There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," Lady Diana said as her relationship with Prince Charles was falling apart.

The wedding of the young, beautiful Diana and the Prince of Wales captivated the entire nation in 1981. The people loved Diana, despite the fact – or perhaps because – she was struggling with her new role, suffering from bulimia and experiencing tensions with her strict mother-in-law, the Queen.

From the very beginning, Camilla Parker-Bowles was part of the relationship between Charles and Diana. Camilla and Charles met and fell in love in the early 1970s. Shortly before his wedding, Charles allegedly sent her a bracelet. On the day itself, Camilla and the groom exchanged meaningful glances. During his honeymoon he donned cufflinks bearing the initials "C&C" and a photograph of Camilla fell out of his diary. This ménage à trois made regular headlines in the media. Camilla stoically bore the burden of being the odd woman out and was criticized by the press for being aloof and stiff. Diana, who for her part also took refuge in extramarital affairs, adopted the public persona of a combative wife. Everyone knows how the story ended: Charles and Diana announced their separation in 1991, Camilla divorced her husband in 1995, and Charles and Diana divorced in 1996. And while Diana died in a tragic road accident in 1997, she lives on in British memories as the "Queen of Hearts." In 2005, Charles finally married the woman he had always loved.

The moment finally arrived when the two foes faced off. Both men had waited years for this daunting encounter: Hector, son of the King of Troy and a heroic defender of the besieged city, and Achilles, the Greeks' most fearsome warrior. Given his dispute with Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae, Achilles had refused to participate in the fighting, as a result of which the Trojans had claimed numerous victories. But when Achilles’ cousin and lover Patroclus entered the fray disguised in Achilles' armor, Hector killed him. Aggrieved by the damage to his reputation and devastated by the loss of his close friend, Achilles furiously sought revenge. He rejoined the army and put all of the Trojans to flight – except Hector. As they engaged in mortal combat, Achilles struck a fatal blow with his sword at the crucial moment. Hector was vanquished outside the gates of Troy and a triumphant Achilles dragged his corpse three times around the city walls. It may be an ancient story, but it is one that has found echoes in many subsequent conflicts.

Two musicians who were supposed to be friends: both born in New York in the early 1970s, both raised without fathers, both drug dealers – a past they left behind after their initial success as rappers. In the beginning they were genuinely close. Until Tupac Shakur was shot following recording sessions with the Notorious B.I.G. and Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy. Both were suspected of plotting the attack. This ignited one of the most famous beefs in hip-hop history: East Coast vs West Coast, a war between the labels Bad Boy Records and Death Row. Their songs are diss rants against one another. But the hostility went beyond song lyrics. "2Pac" Shakur was shot and killed in 1996, Notorious B.I.G. in 1997 – presumably to avenge Shakur. Despite their violent ends, the popularity of their music continued to grow.

In the early 1990s, these two women were rising stars on the American figure-skating firmament. Tonya Harding was extremely athletic and ambitious. Nancy Kerrigan was technically less perfect but possessed a grace and elegance that soon made her everybody's favorite. Perhaps therein lies the seed that spawned Harding’s wounded pride.To qualify for the 1994 Olympics, skaters were required to finish first or second in the U.S. Championships earlier in the year. A day before the showdown, an unidentified assailant hit Kerrigan on the knee with a steel pipe – forcing her withdrawal from the competition. Harding, who had previously finished second-best on several occasions, went on to win and qualify for the Olympics. However, Kerrigan’s recovery was surprisingly swift, and she was able to take her place at the Olympics too. The two women demonstratively ignored each other during their joint warm-up sessions on the ice. A weak performance left Harding in 8th place, while Kerrigan captured silver, just missing out on the gold medal. Harding's ex-husband was later revealed as the main conspirator but nobody was able to prove whether Harding herself had foreknowledge of the attack. She maintained that she only found out after the event. If this tragic story were a fairy tale, it might be called “Snow White and the Ice Witch."

Ferrucio Lamborghini had already established a thriving tractor factory, dabbled in producing heating and air-conditioning systems, and unsuccessfully tried to launch a helicopter company – all before he bought a Ferrari for his private pleasure in the 1960s. As legend has it, Lamborghini was dissatisfied with the car and wanted a showdown with his fellow entrepreneur Ferrari – to voice his criticisms of the car's clutch and cylinder heads. The "ingegnere," as Ferrari liked to style himself, ruled his company with an iron fist. He refused – so the story goes – to meet with a tractor driver and accept the improvements recommended by his future rival. Lamborghini reacted swiftly, commissioning the best developers and designers to build his own version. But not just any old vehicle. With its 12 cylinders and mid-engine design, the Lamborghini Miura is still the gold standard in sports cars today. Celebrities lined up to buy it. At the end of the day, Ferrari’s alleged reaction – while possibly no more than a clever PR prank – became a boon for Lamborghini.

Imke Borchers is a literary scholar and editor for the Atlas.

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