The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent
Oxford University Press
Conrad, Joseph


Introduction, The Secret Agent


`This simple tale of the nineteenth century` gives us a vision of man trapped in an urban secular hell. `The Secret Agent` is the only novel that Conrad set in London and its precise and fastidious prose communicates a profoundly ironic view of human affairs. As the basis of the central action Conrad takes an attack on the Greenwich Observatory in 1894. Verloc, who is secretly working for the police and a `foreign power` (Russia) while ostensibly a member of an anarchist group in Soho, is required by his masters to discredit the anarchists in some spectacular way. He persuades his wife`s idiot brother, Stevie, to plant a bomb - provided by the novel`s most terrifying figure, `The Professor` - at the Greenwich Observatory. But the plan goes horribly wrong and the repercussions are dramatically different from those that Verloc intended. `From a certain point of view we are here in the presence of a domestic drama`, says the Assistant Commissioner of Police, and this...

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