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The Secret Agent A Simple Tale n/e (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 12 Jun 2008
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"An outstanding edition. First-time readers will welcome the eloquent introductory essay, which places The Secret Agent in the context of both Victorianism and modernism, as well as the very useful supplementary materials on anarchism and degeneration. And those already familiar with the novel will be prompted to re-read it in light of Agathocleous's claim that Conrad, along with his New Woman contemporaries, is exploring marriage and the condition of women as well." --Amanda Claybaugh, Columbia University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Spookily topical' - Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
This tale although published in 1907 is set in London in the 1880s, and it was inspired by a true event in the 1890s. Although not that popular at the time it has since come to be regarded as a classic and a masterpiece, as it so well shows us our world, also it has some of the darkest, blackest humour of any work.
Verloc is an agent provocateur in the pay of a foreign government. Running a small stationery shop, having settled down and married, taking on his wife's retarded brother and her mother, Verloc holds meettings with his fellow aged anarchists. And that is all they do, hold meetings amongst themselves, after all they are all getting on, have all settled down to some degree to a comfortable life of freedom in England. But a spanner is about to be thrown into the works. With Verloc's chief replaced he is told in no uncertain terms that he must do something for his money. Thus begins Verloc's task of committing an outrage.
Taking in Verloc's home life, the lives of his friends and the machinations of a certain foreign power, as well as the investigation of the terrorist act and the political machinations that that involves this is the ideal read for anyone interested in politics and terrorism.Read more ›
This is the background to Conrad's tale. His family had personal experience of political oppression and persecution in his home country of Poland; when he came to England he was, in some ways, a refugee himself. He understands aspects of this underworld in ways no British writer could, and constructs for us an unglamorous society of double-agents, intelligence officers, idealists and extremists, vain flaneurs and fellow-travellers, which will be familiar to readers of later writers in the genre such as Graham Greene and John le Carre. If anything you read here sounds cliched, remember that when Conrad wrote he was the first; it is later writers who have borrowed his motifs and threads.
At the core of Conrad's tale is a domestic trgedy; the "simple tale" of the subtitle. It is this which lifts The Secret Agent from thriller to great novel. I won't do a spoiller if I tell you that, in this novel with hardly a sympathetic character, your sympathies will be aroused, twisted and dashed against the stones several times. Do read it; it is very original, thoroughly gripping, and ultimately surprising.
Mr Verloc is a lazy spy in the pay of the Russian government in late 19th Century London. His job is to report on anarchists and revolutionaries as the tide of change and worker's rights sweeps across Europe. England's tolerant attitudes don't suit Moscow and so Verloc is asked to concoct a bombing atrocity in order to stiffen the backbone of the British Government.
So far so good, but this novel is only superficially, if stylishly, concerned with geopolitics. Conrad's real concern is driving deep into the motives and methods of Mr and Mrs Verloc and what lies behind their relationship and indeed, behind the mechanics of each of the relationships that is exposed in this novel. It transpires that Mrs Verloc has married to secure the future of her sub-normal brother Stevie, who is the real love in her life. So that in fact, whilst Mr Verloc appears to be the secretive one, his motives are transparent - money - whilst those of Mrs Verloc are deeply under cover, until Stevie is killed in the bombing, when the real action starts. Around all of this are a group of policemen, politicians and anarchists, living in each other's pockets and both needing and loathing each other.
Each encounter is played both straight, as a means of moving the plot forward, and diagnostically, as a forensic examination of the motives and objects of each participant.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolutely dreadful. Bought it on the basis that Radio 4 bookclub really rated it. Bonkers! Grammar was never my thing but I believe a sentence should have a principal clause (one)... Read morePublished 4 months ago by J
Tiny print and very small marjins make this a disagreeagle book to read. Avoid the Wordsworh editions if favour of other publishers.Published 5 months ago by Bill
A wonderful journey through the underworld of Victorian London.Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Only one star? The book is excellent - but this so-called "illustrated" edition is terrible!
The writing is classic, great, Conrad. Read more
As a teacher, this is awful. There is NO resource guide or annotation within the text and the activities are so, so basic I question the validity of the writer. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mr. Michael J. Ratcliffe
When you think how long ago it was written, it is very good..goes around the houses to describe how someone thinks or feels,Published 6 months ago by Kimbo