The Blood in the Eye: Two Readings Exploring Revenge and Cruelty

In his monumental essay “The Invention of the Human,” Harold Bloom He humorously states that asking Hamlet to exact revenge against his father “is almost like asking Jesus to play the role of Napoleon.” Bloom alluded to the great insight, intellectual freedom and spiritual capacities of the Prince of Denmark, so foreign to those who fall easily into the temptation of revenge, an attitude -we will agree- closer to hatred than justice. That said, there are plenty of examples of literary expressions accomplished in the exploration of revenge and the processes that create and propagate it (Bloom pointed out -also laughingly- that Hamlet took longer to kill Claudius so that the play would have five acts). Some of them, murky areas of the maximum resentment that we can reach, shine in their particular way.

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Difficult, for example, to access the levels of blood and blood in the eye that Paul Theroux exhibits in “La sombra de Naipaul”, some memoirs of their friendship and subsequent estrangement with the 2001 Nobel prize. Theroux, a second-rate storyteller, followed his comrade in blind admiration for decades until the day he found the novels he had autographed for him in an old book store. When he asked for explanations, the answer was a definitive slam in the face. Theroux reacted with this vitriolic chronicle that corroborates that many brilliant writers tend to be horrible people.

Because Naipaul, without a doubt, was. It is true that his humble origins and the humiliations he suffered during his youth in England hardened him and made him distant from others, but his brutal arbitrariness and violence were really unjustifiable.. He had no qualms about spreading his Islamophobia and contempt for African nationalism and enthusiastically undervaluing the literature produced in those countries. Misogynist and sexist to the point of caricature, he destroyed the life of his wife Pat, with whom he was married for forty years, even admitting that the endless mental torture he was saddled with was one of the sure causes of his death in 1996. Theroux does not spare stories, anecdotes, gossip and baseness that one indignantly rejects while wanting to continue reading.

Although it seems difficult, this story has a happy ending. A few years before he died, Theroux and Naipaul met at a festival; he considered the author of “A House for Mr. Biswas” as a narrator at the height of Dickens, between words full of affection. Naipaul, in a wheelchair and sick, was moved to tears. After the event, behind the scenes, it was time for conciliation.

Yukio Mishima presents us in “The Forbidden Color” the need for revenge that eats away at Shunsuke, who left life to take refuge in literature, where he achieved the success that his ugliness did not allow him to have with women. “Not only beauty imposes silence, but also indifference”, he proclaims knowingly. Uninspired, old and living off the income from his first books, he uses the beautiful young homosexual Yuichi to build a hell around Yasuko, a beautiful young woman who at the time rejected Shunsuke’s requirements. He also does it for a no less selfish purpose: to put bitter artistic theories to the test in reality.

As in his unforgettable “Confessions of a mask”, Mishima concocts this combination of destinies from a look, more than frigid, fearful of the traps of desire and its ambiguous neighborhoods with pain. He makes Shunsuke say that “pleasure is just a tragic event and it shouldn’t be more than that.” Sadism, a fascination with the humiliating and meddling in unequal relationships are also the touchstones here. And while “The Forbidden Color” lacks the originality of “Confessions,” it does provide some episodes in which Mishima’s disarray with world conventions provokes an uncomfortable and irresistible tension.

Yuichi’s successful character draws attention for his similarities with another symbol of subjection, of the will sold by a dark vice: the Basini from Robert Musil’s “The Tribulations of Student Torless”. Both, pale, with delicate gestures and morally invalid, end up becoming the puppets of an absolute evil that they do not spare their obsequiousness or wish to confront.


Paul Theroux. Naipaul’s shadow. Editions B, 2002.

Yukio Mishima. “The Forbidden Color”. Anagram, 2011.


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The Blood in the Eye: Two Readings Exploring Revenge and Cruelty