Regular price: $41.99
Buy Now with 1 Credit
Buy Now for $41.99
The uni-bomber, Ted Kaczynski is said to have read "The Secret Agent" as a coda for his decision to murder and maim innocents. Kaczynski’s craziness and the atrocity of 9/11 are most often referred to in modern reviews of The Secret Agent.
"The Secret Agent" is about a middle-aged, over weight secret service agent named Adolph Verloc. Verloc lives in England and is a spy for an unnamed country. Verloc is called into his employer country’s Embassy to tell him that he is going to be fired unless he provides some actionable service for his pay. Verloc is upset with the news because he is dependent on the income received from the foreign country.
Conrad offers some insight to a terrorist’s demented beliefs. The consequence of a terrorist event is the devastation of those left behind. However, the tale is too long; mystery, revelation, insight too meager, and characters too stereotypical. "The Secret Agent" is only marginally interesting because of Horovitch’s narration.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
How could I get so much enjoyment out of a book filled with so much futility, wasted energy and pointless action?
Perhaps because the futility is the futility of anarchists and terrorists. Because I see, especially in the character of the professor and his towering contempt for humanity, a template for the disastrous 20th Century that was a mere seven years old when this novel was published.
No, that’s not it, either. Or at least not all of it.
On the surface, this is the kind of book I usually don’t like. Or perhaps it just looked like the kind of book I wouldn’t like. In spite of the intriguing title, the name of the author promised an introspective, Marlow-esque journey through the subtle undercurrents of the psyche. An anatomical critique of European Imperialism. (If you’re guessing that I’m really only familiar with Heart of Darkness, you’re right.) Warned off of Conrad’s Nostromo by online reviewers who found it too complex, I only really bought Secret Agent because Audible put it up as a Daily Deal. And I am very glad I did. But like I said, I'm just not quite sure why.
Instead of introspection, things actually happen here: an bomb explosion, an accidental murder, an intentional murder, even a suicide. Yes, Conrad pulls the same stunts with chronology that caused those reviewers so much pain with Nostromo. But he only does it once and I just took it in my stride (which makes me think I should have grabbed Nostromo when it was on sale, too).
And there’s more: Conrad displays his usual powers here, as both a teller of tales and a spinner of sentences. He doesn’t just give you insights into our common humanity; he gives them in words you want to memorize. His evocation of a cold London street is, in and of itself, worth the price of admission. And those powers are in the service of a plot full of intrigue, double dealing, hidden motives, bad intentions that somehow never lead to anything and good intentions gone terribly wrong.
And, for all its darkness and misdirection, I extracted a sort of wry, dry humor from the book, too. Which I can’t explain, so please don’t ask.
Finally, our narrator David Horovitch deserves the highest marks for elocution, characterization, pacing, in fact in everything that makes a superb reader superb.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Meant to read this for ages. Conrad captures the semi- comic world of bungling spies and the absurdity and hypocrisy of anarchism in late 19th century London. . It is a tragic tale with a macabre edge. No character comes out well, not even the all-sacrificing Winnie Verloc. Well worth the time it took to listen to it. David Horovitch is an excellent narrator, Conrad one of our greatest writers.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful