Modern literature teems with proverbial sayings about friendship: a friend is a mirror into one’s own soul, they’ll stick by you through thick and thin. But what is there to say when your friend grows up to murder at least 76 people?
That’s when friends tell the truth, no matter how harsh. According to a childhood friend of Anders Behring Breivik — who didn’t want to be named, understandably — all promises of secrecy evaporate when one’s pal turns into a murderer. The childhood friend, who at 32 is the same age as the alleged shooter, spoke to Dagbladet, a Norwegian newspaper, to paint a picture of a right-wing nationalist who’d had a childhood just like the rest of us.
The two met when the unnamed friend moved to the same neighborhood as Breivik in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. “There are many good memories, but … this is just sick,” the friend said, elaborating on a few details of Breivik’s life that could help explain his decline into madness.
As a kid, Breivik encountered typical schoolyard troubles. “At the end of sixth grade, I noticed that he began to become a bit of an outsider. He was getting a bit bullied,” the friend noted. Unable to deal with rejection from those around him, Breivik reportedly turned to the gym, lifting weights and taking steroids to bulk up in an attempt to mitigate his inferiority complex.
He also allegedly attempted to improve his appearance with the help of a plastic surgeon. The friend alluded to the fact that Breivik went under the knife a few years ago in the U.S.: “He was very pleased. He had had surgery on his forehead, nose and chin.” The pictures of Breivik that have circulated in recent days, culled from Facebook and other online sources, seemingly portray a put-together man. It’s fitting, then, that the friend describes him as a perfectionist.
Despite a clean shave and well-coiffed hair, Breivik was still unlucky in love. “He has never had a girlfriend, as far as I know,” the friend told Dagbladet, and Breivik may have never even been with a woman. He denied being gay, despite a photo of him dancing at the 2004 gay pride parade in Oslo. Breivik talks up his desire for women in his manifesto, claiming he was “fit like hell” and that women approached him on occasion.
The last time the friend met with Breivik was a year ago. So how does the friend feel now? “I feel an enormous amount of hatred … There are no words,” he said. Well, no positive words, at least.
— Translated by Beau Friedlander for TIME