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Under Western Eyes (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Joseph Conrad , Paul Kirschner
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Aug 1996 0140188495 978-0140188493 New edition
Under Western Eyes traces a sequence or error, guilt, and expiation. Its composition placed such demands upon Conrad that he suffered a serious breakdown upon its completion. It is by common critical consent one of his finest achievements. Bomb-throwing assassins, political repression and revolt, emigre revolutionaries infiltrated by a government spy: much of Under Western Eyes (1911) is more topical than we might wish. Set in tsarist Russia and in Geneva, its concern with perennial issues of human responsibility gives it a lasting moral force. The contradictory demands placed upon men and women by the social and political convulsions of the modern age have never been more revealingly depicted. Joseph Conrad personally felt no sympathy with either Russians or revolutionaries. None the less his portrayal of both in Under Western Eyes is dispassionate and disinterested. Through the Western eyes of his narrator we are given a sombre but not entirely pessimistic view of the human dilemmas which are born of oppression and violence.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (29 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140188495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140188493
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 12.9 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,703,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years.

In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice.

In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes.

He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in English - his third language.

Product Description


"This new edition of Under Western Eyes will significantly enhance our understanding of the novel. Peters' introduction is lucid, informative, and extremely well written. The appendices are superbly chosen. Together, they clarify why and how Conrad wrote the novel, and why it was such a major challenge for him, artistically, personally, and psychologically. The scholarly apparatus is brilliantly done; it is concise, compelling, well written, and illuminating. Any and all readers of the novel, even those who think they already know it well, will benefit enormously from this edition."--Stephen Ross --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Joseph Conrad was a Polish novelist who lived most of his life in Britain and didn't learn English until age 21. The young Conrad lived an adventurous life involving gunrunning and political conspiracy, and apparently had a disastrous love affair that plunged him into despair. He served 16 years in the merchant navy.In 1894, at age 36, Conrad reluctantly gave up the sea, partly because of poor health and partly because he had decided on a literary career. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great work by Conrad 15 Feb 2008
Influenced by Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment", also a gripping pyschological study of an aloof, "guilty" man, but with a new twist: this is a searing indictment of cynical Russian autocracy (so timeless!) - and of police states in general. And it also vividly illustrates Conrad's famous (and wise) scepticism about the effectiveness of violent revolutionary action. The hero Mr Razumov, and his associates, are oppressed human victims of these two great opposing forces. This is one of Conrad's very best works - better I think than "The Secret Agent" - and is also one of the best (and politically phrophetic) novels of the early 20th century.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb portrayal of the Russian character 6 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Apart from being a gripping story, Under Western Eyes is one of best portrayals of the turn-of-the-century Russian mind that you will come across. Some of the characters, notably Razumov and the main exiled revolutionaries, could come straight out of Dostoyevsky. The dialogue is abstract, halting and slightly sinister, mixing intolerance, fear and semi-hysteria. Crucial to the atmospherics is the depiction of Geneva as a dull, smug, ugly city where freedom is taken for granted in a way that sets it a world apart from Russia. It may not quite be as good as Nostromo or Heart of Darkness, but it is well up there as one of the early 20th century's great novels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond a heart most dark... 2 April 2012
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
In ways almost all students, and certainly their teachers also, are hard-pressed to explain, one particular work of an author becomes the one "assigned," and the others are dismissed, usually unread, as "minor," or, at least not necessary to have read in order to say that one has "done" this author. For example, for Thomas Wolfe, it is Look Homeward, Angel and for Gustave Flaubert, it is Madame Bovary (Penguin Classics). For Joseph Conrad, it is Heart of Darkness (Penguin Classics), and it still rankles me that it was adopted as a metaphor for the Vietnam War in Apocalypse Now (3-disc Special Edition including Hearts of Darkness) [Blu-ray] [1979]. The better intentioned readers will often say... someday... I'll read another work by that author. And I'm pleased to say that that someday has finally arrived, and I read my second work by Joseph Conrad, one that seemed better and more insightful that the one normally "assigned."

Conrad was born a Pole, lived for a period in exile in Russia proper, with his parents, and was orphaned at the age of 11. He commenced to "seek his fortune" in the merchant marines, at the age of 16. Nautical themes are the subject of several of his works. English is his THIRD language, and it is truly humbling to recall that while reading his exquisitely crafted prose, like beautifully polished fine grain wood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive 3 Nov 2010
This is a beautifuuly written, well-told story by an under-rated author. Despite being written a century ago, it still has a very modern feel. It covers the period around the end of the 19th century, in Tsarist Russia, when the struggle between the autocratic police state and those seeking freedom and justice was at its height.

Razumov, a student in St. Petersburg with little interest in politics, is compromised by a fellow student, Haldin, who he finds in his room after he (Haldin) has just assassinated a leading state official. Razumov initially agrees to help Haldin escape, but then betrays him. Because of his association with Haldin, the fact that his room was searched by the police and that he was taken in for questioning, he acquires an unjustified reputation as a revolutionary sympathiser. The secret police decide to make use of this reputation by persuading (Siberia- or worse?) him to spy on the revolutionaries in Geneva- he arrives there under the pretence of fleeing arrest.

He meets many of the major conspiritors there (an unlikely bunch!), some of whom doubt him. He also meets and begins to fall in love with Haldin's sister, Natalia. His overall feelings of decency and, particularly, of remorse lead to him confessing his involvement in Haldin's capture and death, for which he is severely punished.

Those reading this edition should avoid reading the notes, which I found broke up the flow of the story and were irritating. They deal with such matters as the various manuscript alterations made by Conrad (he was a great tinkerer), the sources and influences on the book in French and Russian literature, translations of simple foreign phrases and Conrad's grammatical errors- such as "shall" instead of "will"!
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read 26 May 2000
By A Customer
I strongly recomend this book especially for people who have not read Conrad before: it is the easiest Conrad book to "get into" because the plot begins straight away and is imediately interesting. Through no fault or his own, through another person's misunderstanding the main character finds himself involved in a situation which changes his life and where he has to act in the face of moral dilemnas.There is no other writer like Conrad: the continual depths conveyed in all his books I have not encounted before in this way. This particular book is different from his others in subject matter - I have heard it said that it is more intellectual; you could say perhaps that it's subject is more intellectual and you would not be wrong. Still it is easy to read and compelling. I wish there were more writers like Joseph Conrad.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by J
5.0 out of 5 stars Great spy stuff
Read this some time ago and ordered it to reread on Kindle.
Great spy stuff.
Published 3 months ago by katetudor
5.0 out of 5 stars More books
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Published 8 months ago by David Raw
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Conrad
He writes prose like a monumental sculptor shapes stone. Each sentence is as clear as it needs to be. Pictures are drawn in clear lines. Terrific
Published 13 months ago by Miss Ogyney
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Star Book
Get this book! It's free...and a totally compelling read. A totally enthralling read. One of Conrad's best novels in my opinion.
Published 21 months ago by Ibn Battuta
4.0 out of 5 stars Not about the sea
Conrad's use of language improved with age - less verbosity - and the plot is good. Clumsily sourced narration though as he jumps from the diary, to the girl, to someone's wife he... Read more
Published on 16 Sep 2012 by Lancsman
4.0 out of 5 stars Comrade Conrad
This I believe is one of Conrad's later works and is bereft of the rampant descriptive verbosity that added an almost manic quality to the narrative of his earlier works. Read more
Published on 25 May 2011 by nicholas hargreaves
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolution in Russia
Caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing against the Tsarist authorities, Razumov, a young student uninvolved in politics or protest, finds himself trapped in a web of... Read more
Published on 20 Feb 2010 by Silvanus
3.0 out of 5 stars Words are the greatest foes of reality
An English teacher (the 'Western Eyes') tries to find the truth behind the autobiography of a Russian agent, for 'words are the greatest foes of reality', and 'speech has been... Read more
Published on 22 May 2006 by Luc REYNAERT
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