Letter: Truth may never be known

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The Independent Online
MOVING and intelligent as Gitta Sereny's 'further evidence' on the murder of James Bulger undoubtedly was, it left me with an overwhelming feeling that we are finally no nearer 'the truth'. There must, alas, be thousands of children in Britain whose lives would fit into the narrative pattern into which the lives of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were shaped. What is so chilling is that there is nothing sufficiently extraordinary to explain why these boys crossed over into such butchery.

The Bluest Eye by the Nobel prize-winner Toni Morrison furnishes an instructive, even uncanny parallel. The story of the rape of a black American girl by her father, it, too, explores the 'life stories' of the main characters to find an 'explanation'. I was unnerved to read what Ann Thompson said of her marriage breakdown - 'It's so hard to know what went wrong' - having just read the words in the novel by the girl's mother to cope with the same trauma: 'I don't know what all happened.' But in the novel the mother's failure to explain is not compensated for, as in the article, by a psycho-social discourse.

Even if and when the boys do 'tell their own story', will it really be 'their own' and so provide a more authoritative explanation, as Gitta Sereny suggests, given that it will inevitably be filtered through the 'formation' they will have received?

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton

Universite De Lausanne