Andrew O’Hagan wrote a gripping book review for the current LRB (“From Soup to Fish”). It was about Stephen Spender’s son Matthew’s memoir of life in the Spender household. Getting to the point, O’Hagan quotes Natasha Spender saying to her son, “‘We’ve heard this story of your miserable childhood from soup to fish. You were a much loved child and if you choose to remember differently, it’s no bloody business of anybody but you.'” Commenting on this, Andrew O’Hagan wrote: “Parents who silence their children to save their own pride lay the foundation stone of the revenge narrative, create the appetite they most wish to suppress.”
But of course Matthew was a grown up not a child when this familiar conversation took place.
Children don’t need to be silenced; that’s the problem. It is difficult to encourage a revenge narrative in a child against his parents. Who will look after them once they have truly taken revenge on their parents? In the absence of the narrative or ‘true revenge’, childish revenge is carried out by the child attacking itself.
Once you’ve accepted your animosity, the true revenge narrative – the one which obliterates your enemies by ever decreasing the necessity of reference to them – is the narrative of your own strength and the strength of your allies.