The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale

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Cambridge University Press, Jan 3, 2013 - Fiction - 454 pages
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By the time Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) produced this novel in 1907, terrorism had torn its way through London: Victoria station had been partially destroyed, the House of Commons damaged, and Scotland Yard attacked with dynamite. Conrad's story is set in 1886, at the height of these troubles, and was inspired by the 1894 attempt to bomb Greenwich Observatory. Written just after Nostromo (1904), it is a marked departure from Conrad's usual seafaring form and plunges the reader into the claustrophobic, grimy world of late nineteenth-century London. Mr Adolf Verloc - anarchist, spy, and purveyor of pornographic material - heads a cast of shadowy characters all affected directly or indirectly by the anarchist organisation to which he belongs. Although critics acknowledged its power, the novel and its dark subject matter were uneasily received in Conrad's lifetime. This reissue of the first edition confirms the book's place as a classic of twentieth-century fiction.
 

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About the author (2013)

Joseph Conrad is recognized as one of the 20th century's greatest English language novelists. He was born Jozef Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski on December 3, 1857, in the Polish Ukraine. His father, a writer and translator, was from Polish nobility, but political activity against Russian oppression led to his exile. Conrad was orphaned at a young age and subsequently raised by his uncle. At 17 he went to sea, an experience that shaped the bleak view of human nature which he expressed in his fiction. In such works as Lord Jim (1900), Youth (1902), and Nostromo (1904), Conrad depicts individuals thrust by circumstances beyond their control into moral and emotional dilemmas. His novel Heart of Darkness (1902), perhaps his best known and most influential work, narrates a literal journey to the center of the African jungle. This novel inspired the acclaimed motion picture Apocalypse Now. After the publication of his first novel, Almayer's Folly (1895), Conrad gave up the sea. He produced thirteen novels, two volumes of memoirs, and twenty-eight short stories. He died on August 3, 1924, in England.