Conrad's only spy novel, THE SECRET AGENT is set in the filthy and depraved city of London of the 1880s. Adolf Verloc, a bumbling police informer and...more
Conrad's only spy novel, THE SECRET AGENT is set in the filthy and depraved city of London of the 1880s. Adolf Verloc, a bumbling police informer and the undercover agent for an unnamed European embassy, is recruited to bomb the Greenwich Observatory. Horrified and afraid, he fools his wife (who married him only so he would support her) into letting her half-witted brother, Stevie, help him; Stevie explodes the bomb prematurely and blows himself to bits. When she discovers the truth, Verloc's wife goes mad with rage and grief. This bleakly ironic tale of isolation, despair, and lack of love is perhaps Conrad's most powerful novel, and is a dark satire of English life, with amoral characters on both sides of the law. less
I can't say this is Conrad's strongest work. Perhaps I've been spoiled by such monumental masterpieces of fiction as Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, that a simply great book like The Secret Agent just doesn't seem to hold up well in comparison.
Typically challenging read in the Conrad style... a psychological drama that is slow to unfold, and then gripping to the unexpeted end.
I recommend it, but with the caveat that it requires a lot of the reader and leaves many open questions to be examined.
I read this during the global paranoia following the events of 9/11 and did it read like it was written for the period. As always, Conrad digs deep into the psyche of his adopted culture, in, and I am ever amazed by the fact, his third language.