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The Secret Agent ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (46)

Based on an actual plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory, this is one of the first novels to deal with terrorism.   A hapless group of anarchists is prodded into the bombing, which destroys them, rather than their intended target.

Conrad has created a memorable cast of characters & deftly demonstrates the senseless nature of political violence.  But this is a novel whose impact has been dulled by the events of our bloody century.  Where once the bombing of Greenwich Observatory would have been a shocking crime, after the assassination attempts on Prime Ministers and other IRA attacks, it seems almost comical.


Grade: (B)


Joseph Conrad Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Joseph Conrad
-ESSAY: Ivory, silver, coal: Joseph Conrad and the ecology of empire (Jeffrey Meyers, October 2021, The Article)
    -ESSAY: Hisham Matar on the Migratory Fictions of Joseph Conrad: The Author of The Return Reconsiders the Story, “Amy Foster” (Hisham Matar, December 3, 2021, LitHub)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Bio (American Institute of Polish Culture homepage)
    -Lycos Guide to Joseph Conrad
    -Conrad's Darkness (V. S. NAIPAUL, NY Review of Books)
    -English 455: Colloquium on Joseph Conrad (Dr. Richard Ruppel: Department of English)
    -ESSAY : Conspiracy and Concealment in Nostromo (Hong-Shu Teng)
    -ESSAY : Joseph Conrad Never Jumped  (Frank Kermode, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW of  Joseph Conrad: The Three Lives by Frederick R. Karl, Moralist of Exile (V.S. PRITCHETT, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW of Culture and Imperialism  by Edward W. Said  Lost Paradises (MICHAEL WOOD, NY review of Books)
   -Literary Research Guide: Joseph Conrad (1857 - 1924 )
    -ESSAY: Twentieth Century Political Novels: Structure, form and narrative technique in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent  (Are Sauren)
    -ESSAY : Chasing After Conrad's Secret Agent : It's the archetypal novel about terrorists. And everyone's getting it wrong (Judith Shulevitz, Slate)

If you liked The Secret Agent, try:

Brink, Andre
    -An Act of Terror

Camus, Albert
    -The Rebel

Hynes, James
    -The Wild Colonial Boy

LeCarre, John
    -The Little Drummer Girl

Lessing, Doris
    -The Good Terrorist

O'Flaherty, Liam
    -The Informer