The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale

The Secret Agent: A Simple TaleMr Verloc, The Secret Agent, Keeps A Shop In London S Soho Where He Lives With His Wife Winnie, Her Infirm Mother, And Her Idiot Brother, Stevie When Verloc Is Reluctantly Involved In An Anarchist Plot To Blow Up The Greenwich Observatory Things Go Disastrously Wrong, And What Appears To Be A Simple Tale Proves To Involve Politicians, Policemen, Foreign Diplomats And London S Fashionable Society In The Darkest And Most Surprising InterrelationsBased On The Text Which Conrad S First English Readers Enjoyed, This New Edition Includes A Full And Up To Date Bibliography, A Comprehensive Chronology And A Critical Introduction Which Describes Conrad S Great London Novel As The Realization Of A Monstrous Town, A Place Of Idiocy, Madness, Criminality, And Savage Butchery It Also Discusses Contemporary Anarchist Activity In The UK, Imperialism, And Conrad S Narrative Techniques

Joseph Conrad born J zef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was a Polish born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner He then began to work aboard Br

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  • Paperback
  • 304 pages
  • The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
  • Joseph Conrad
  • English
  • 26 August 2018
  • 9780192801692

10 thoughts on “The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale

  1. says:

    I have only run across a few writers who can adeptly and accurately plumb the depths of the human soul Joseph Conrad is one of those authors and he is on a short list of talented creators who seem to have two fingers on the pulse of primordial man as he still lives and breathes beneath the surface composure of his civilized evolution For Conrad, the ability to strip off the etiquette, culture, and social s of western thought is as eventful as watching sun bathers lose their clothing on the beach The Secret Agent, his 1907 publication, falls into the category of this his most accomplished canon, the exploration of our psychological depths and the unsettling discovery that to get there takes little delving A reader of Conrad s cannot help but compare this work with his later book Under Western Eyes, and I cannot help but compare both to Dostoyevsky s Crime and Punishment As in the Russian s novel, Conrad succeeds in capturing a sympathetic portrait of the monster We eat with Verloc, despair with him, feel his rages and jealousies, his uncertainties, and we see the simple, fundamental love of his wife through his eyes This is a story of love, hate, betrayal, insanity, and a peculiar misanthropy that seems a ubiquitous theme to Conrad s work.

  2. says:

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  3. says:

    In the aftermath of a tragedy people often look towards artists, towards novelists, musicians and poets also, for comfort, the kind of comfort one finds when someone is able to capture an event, or feelings, that you yourself find incomprehensible or unfathomable or inexpressible For example, after 9 11 there was a rush to proclaim certain kinds of art as speaking for the time s , and it was then that Joseph Conrad s The Secret Agent received a lot of attention, it being a novel concerned with a plot to blow up a well known building Subsequent to the attacks on the Twin Towers, this book has now come to be known as The Great Terrorism Novel, and is seen as a kind of prophetic prescient work Yet, there is something about the The Secret Agent, something about the particular brand of terrorism that it deals with, that people often choose to ignore or simply misunderstand or perhaps, if one was being especially cynical, which I almost always am, one might wonder if a lot of the journalists who put the book forward have actually read it.Adolf yes, Adolf Verloc has two jobs One is to run a seedy shop in London with his wife and her simple minded brother, and the other is as the secret agent of the title However, Verloc is no James Bond he is an observer, and informer that is, until one day he is told, by the shady Mr Vladimir, who is some kind of foreign ambassador, that observation is not enough He must, says Vladimir, prove to be indispensable if he wants to remain on the payroll This being indispensable involves blowing up Greenwich Observatory, the aim of which is to stir England into decisive, even extreme, action against criminal revolutionary terrorist elements or organisations It is Vladimir s idea that in order to do this one must get the attention of, to wake up so to speak, the middle classes The imbecile bourgeoisie of this country make themselves the accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches And they have the political power still, if they only had the sense to use it for their preservation I suppose you agree the middle classes are stupid Mr Verloc agreed hoarsely They are They have no imagination They are blinded by an idiotic vanity What they want just now is a jolly good scare This is blistering stuff The terrorists are not crazy Arabs hellbent on destroying democracy and taking over the world, as some commentators would have you believe was the case with 9 11, this is violence and terrorism used against an ignorant or complaisant people in order to enrage them, in order to manipulate them into doing what you want them to do So, far from providing balm for the masses, The Secret Agent is actually likely to fuel conspiracy theories its take on the political world is, in fact, far closer to the popular conspiracy theory that the World Trade Centre attacks were an inside job, that they were brought down in order to give the US government a reason to wage war in the Middle East.One of the first things you will notice about The Secret Agent is that although the novel is purported to be set in London, there is not a great deal that is recognisably English about it All of the revolutionaries, for example, have continental sounding names Ossipon, Verloc, Michaelis, etc despite it being the case that they are meant to be British citizens Further, Conrad s capital city is a particularly gloomy place even taking into account that London may have been dirty and so on, there is something almost phantasmagorical, but certainly very odd, about the way the Pole presents it In Bleak House Dickens writes about the fog and such, but Conrad s London appears to be permanently in darkness, with a palpable threat of violence or madness always in the air Indeed, the sense of madness or mental strain that pervades the work is reminiscent of Dostoevsky although Conrad was, apparently, not a fan.For a novel so obviously, relentlessly, political and satirical it would be easy to see the characters as mere symbols, or representations, or one dimensional puppets Yet there is also a strong human aspect to the work First of all, there is the conflict resulting from the task given to Verloc, by which I mean that of the observer who is forced to be an active participant It takes a special kind of person to do this sort of thing, to bomb a building most people are capable of standing by and letting it occur, but it s a different thing, takes a different kind of personality, altogether to be the one holding the explosive, to detonate it As one would imagine, if you force someone to act who is suited to observing the consequences are likely to be disastrous.Secondly, there is the relationship between the simple minded Stevie and the Verlocs Stevie does have a representative or symbolic function in the novel he is innocence and confusion and, one could also say, chaos at least mentally emotionally he is, in a sense, both the moral conscience of the novel and a human mirror of the emotional state of Mr Verloc himself as well as perhaps all revolutionaries Yet he also provides the most tender moments in the book, such as his sympathy for the whipped horse and the poor driver of the horse, and all of the tragedy Stevie is a tragic figure because he is a wholly trusting and loving brother and brother in law Mrs Verloc sacrifices herself in order to provide a safe and comfortable home for him, while Mr Verloc ultimately takes advantage of him in an apparently mindless, yet cruel manner.I hope that so far I have gone some way to summing up some of the book s strengths and points of interest, yet it would be remiss of me not to mention that many readers raise serious objections Of these objections most are related to Conrad s style On this, there is no doubt that The Secret Agent is at times a mess of adverbs and repetition no character does or says anything in the book that isn t, in some way, over or unnecessarily described and repeated For example, Verloc is said to mumble or speak huskily with such frequency that it is liable to cause mirth or extreme irritation in the reader Indeed, if you were to be brutally honest, this over reliance on certain words, and excessive number of adverbs, is the kind of thing you would expect from the most amateur of YA authors, not one of the most renowned novelists of the 20th century.So, does this mean that Conrad was a bad writer Or that The Secret Agent is a badly written book That is certainly one way to look at it One might say that as Conrad was a Pole writing in English it is understandable that his vocabulary would be limited and his sentences idiosyncratic Yet I don t quite agree with this All of his novels are dense and difficult but, unless my memory is faulty, this is the only one written in this particular way Further, some of the repetition, for example Ossipon, nicknamed Doctor , occurs on subsequent pages in the text, and, for me, it is absurd to think Conrad wouldn t have noticed This suggests that these flaws were perhaps intentional, that it was a style choice However, one is then, of course, faced with coming up with some way of justifying that style choice.The Secret Agent features intellectually dull men, incompetent revolutionaries with radical ideas or, in Verloc s case, an incompetent secret agent As with Stevie, Conrad s banal yet convoluted style in a way mirrors the mental, intellectual state of these characters Further, as previously noted, the novel s atmosphere is that of confusion and anxiety and potential violence The repetition, the overall strange writing style, to some extent makes the reader feel how the characters themselves feel it is, whether one likes it or not, disorientating, and that does not strike me as a coincidence While many argue that The Secret Agent s style is unsophisticated the same could not be said of the structure In the early part of the novel each new chapter deals with a different character, often introducing a previously unknown one Rather than follow Verloc as he carries out his assigned task, the narrative moves around, shifts perspective and during each of these shifts characters will discuss both past and present events, thereby only gradually revealing what is going on For example, one finds out during an early chapter featuring Ossipon and the Professor that someone has blown themselves up, and that it is assumed that it is Verloc But you never see the event itself, and you don t find out what actually happened until much later There is, therefore, no linear timeline of events much like a detective, you have to piece together the timeline yourself, and this is particularly satisfying.However, towards the end of the novel the focus narrows, and in the last 50 or so pages Mrs Verloc comes to the fore There is a long passage between her and her husband that is difficult to discuss without spoilers, but it is a truly brilliant piece of writing Conrad manages to show grief and shock in a way that is accurate and moving than I thought possible in a novel For me, it is worth reading The Secret Agent for this long passage alone Yet, that is not necessary, one need not read Conrad s work only for this passage, because it gives you so much farce, tragedy, murder, satire, mystery, and so on It may not be The Great Terrorism Novel, it may not comfort the masses the next time a bomb explodes, scattering far and wide the flesh of hundreds or thousands of destroyed bodies, but it is a fucking great book.

  4. says:

    The Secret Agent is by far the most complex classic I read for this year It is a classic which is conceptually modern Built on the themes of espionage, double agents, government policies, politics, terrorism and revolutionaries, it is a dark and tragic tale, and even brutal at times In the heart of the story is a secret agent, his double life and his unsuspecting family The whole story is knitted around them The story is presented in an episodic manner and each episode did keep the reader s interest However, this episodic structure at times produced confusion and hindered the understanding of the story as a whole The characters were cold and self centered and didn t interest me much, except perhaps the Chief Inspector and the Assistant commissioner of police But even though I didn t like them, I enjoyed the character descriptions and psychological portrayals marvelously done by the author I especially enjoyed the character description and the psychological portrayal of the secret agent, Mr Verloc His mind set up, the dangerous extent to which he was driven, his capacity to betray the trust so dearly placed on him and his willingness to sacrifice anyone to achieve his own goals and to secure his pay role is brilliantly presented And how his actions ultimately affected his wife, her devastation and the catastrophe that befell on them too is truly and sincerely portrayed.The story was a slow start and the read took time than usual for a short classic But what made me take the time and read it through to the end was Conrad s excellent writing It was clever and witty This is my first read of Joseph Conrad And perhaps, this is not the right book for me to begin him with But a glimpse in to his writing is well worth my time and effort.

  5. says:

    London muddy, rain and soot, mist and fog In a one eyed street in Soho, Mr Verloc runs his small business, a very discreet shop for male customers, confidentially selling a heterogeneous set of newspapers with revolutionary tendencies and discreetly sealed shady merchandise, which are conducive to satisfying and flattering instincts of his gentlemen The worthy trader took charge of his wife s family, wife of erased, family composed of a simple minded and influential brother in law as well as an almost impotent mother in law But under this patchy and patched blanket, Verloc became a double agent in the service of a foreign power as well as an indic of the police, while his back shop was the benchmark of a composite breed of low level anarchists floor.This political novel, urban, glaucous, occupies a special place in the Conradian work by the frame of its narrative and its purpose The author s intention was to use irony as the universal mode of expression of the narrator, to treat the conspiracy subject of the instrumentalisation of the political bombing under the parodic prism As such, it is a great success.

  6. says:

    I can appreciate this novel is pretty wonderful And as I read and I was fascinated, but I did find it hard going at the start I think the plot is horrific, and it made me want to research the Greenwich Bomb in detail I think it was a pretty daring book for Conrad to release at such a time with such detailed observations on spying and terrorism It s still an incredibly relevant work even now in the current climate.

  7. says:

    My ratings are very moody and just generally not to be trusted Having gotten that fact out in the open for the umpteenth time, I will say that I thought this was a very good book Love, no Like very much, yes I especially hearted the last ish part with the wife and the train and ole dude s stop, drop, and roll in mid air move because ACTION SUSPENSE HEARTBREAK PLOTSY TWIRLS In fact, most of my favorite scenes involved Winnie V, while some other sections, particularly some of the beat you over the head with symbolism conversational scenes with BadMeanyPoliticianMens, made it an occasional slog If I wanted to really be a cranky puss, I would also point out how some descriptive words e.g husky huskily were used entirely too many times in rapid succession, which bugs the piss straight outta me for the simple fact that I appreciate a fella who knows how to admit defeat and just pick up a freakin thesaurus from time to time Tiny style gripes Also, I finished a book I enjoyed reading a couple of days before this, so that definitely influenced things, and you totally, understandably care about that and must be so glad that I told you All in the gut, baby No star science here Just bloody, stinkin guts I ll probably bump it up if it s still rolling around in my noggin a year from now, which is very possible because I think 2014 just may still feature terrorists, corrupt politicians and law enforcement personnel, plots n schemes n conspiracies, crushing deception by of those you love most, exploitation of any and all human weakness, and assholes.

  8. says:

    766 The Secret Agent A Simple Tale, Joseph ConradThe Secret Agent A Simple Tale is a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1907 The story is set in London in 1886 and deals with Mr Adolf Verloc and his work as a spy for an unnamed country presumably Russia The Secret Agent is one of Conrad s later political novels in which he moved away from his former tales of seafaring 187 1365 313 9649087231 20 1907 1886

  9. says:

    One of those books which a lot of people say you should read and now I finally love I m sympathetic to Conrad s style I m clumsy enough in a second language to be amazed at how well he holds up with his fourth In short, it s a look at the kinds of people who want to blow things up The allegory is at times overdone, but I m impressed with how Conrad shows the anarchists as complex characters, and makes their interest in violence and the squalor and desperation of their lives so plausible and convincing.

  10. says:

    My best friend Joel has a friend Bob who teaches at Rutgers Nearly a decade ago, before becoming a scholarly expert on Borat, he stated that in terms of literature he wasn t going to bother with anything written later than 1920 what was the point, he d quip I admired his pluck While I m not sure he still ascribes to such Well, for a couple of weeks in 2004 I adhered to the goal There have been many goals with a similar history and such a sad conclusion sigh This was my first effort towards that goal and what an amazing novel it is The Secret Agent is the dark reversal of Chesterton s The Man Who Was Thursday The devices employed are grim and effective Highly recommended.

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