Another overlap between The Secret Agent and The Man Who Was Thursday is a contrast between the implications of the stories and the tone in which they are told, a distance signalled by subtitles. And, if Conrad saw in anarchism a chance to dramatise the worst aspects of human behaviour, Chesterton, an optimist and devout Roman Catholic believer, attempts a moral about the possibility of betterment.
But this confusion is illuminating, as there is a line of inheritance from anarchist to war literature, and, indeed, beyond that, to the next fictional growth area: espionage. Trails from The Secret Agent and espionage novels can then be traced into the next big burst of fiction about domestic terrorism following the outbreak of the Irish Troubles. The footprints of anarchist fiction can be found here too, as the Irish republican leader Michael Collins, a historical inspiration to the IRA, was a declared admirer of The Man Who Was Thursday , claiming to have learned from it that the best way of avoiding being hunted was not to seem to be hiding anything.
Troubles fiction began as early as , when Jack Higgins the pen name of Harry Patterson published A Prayer for the Dying , in which the protagonist, Martin Fallon, is a former IRA killer trying to atone for his past. Seymour had reported from Belfast for ITN and established the habit of fiction about Northern Irish terrorism initially being written by outsiders. Another literary immigrant, the Iranian-Rhodesian Doris Lessing, wrote The Good Terrorist , a novel that seems to hold deliberate echoes of The Secret Agent , as Alice, a middle-class communist, becomes involved with a cabal of London anarchists who, inspired by the IRA, transmute into terrorists.
For understandable reasons of getting enough of the subject at home — and the genuine physical risk to publishers and writers who were perceived to be taking sides — Northern Irish writers have only fully tackled the topic in books written since the establishment of the peace process, by crime writers including Adrian McKinty , Brian McGilloway and Stuart Neville. The eruption of Catholic-Protestant violence in Northern Ireland was paralleled by increasing Israeli-Arab tension — from the six-day war of to the killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in and the Yom Kippur war of — and there is a porous border between the literatures of Irish and Middle Eastern terrorism.
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Conrad was not the first to make this observation but he presents it in such a way as to make it really strike home. I'm sure there is a lot of other important stuff in the book too, but this was just the main one that I felt. I love Chapter Six, in which a Chief Inspector of the police is conversing with his superior. Between each line of dialogue Conrad gives us paragraphs of internal thought - in short he makes a mockery of that "show, don't tell" rule that is supposed to apply to good writing.
Dawn of the Terror Era
Conrad tells everything , and it works! This should bore me to death, but it actually stimulates my thinking. Later in the novel Chapter Eleven , this dragging out of the action by all the interior stuff raises an already tense scene to an almost unbearable level of tension. It is incredibly effective, but I fear too many busy modern readers just don't have the patience for it. That's one sign of a great book, isn't it? This isn't some dusty classic that explores issues only related to historical events. It speaks to us, now, in a voice that is urgent and vital.
Nov 06, Jon athan Nakapalau rated it it was amazing Shelves: classics , favorites.
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The inner workings of a terrorist cell are examined in this tale of ideology and betrayal. Nov 11, Ivana Books Are Magic rated it it was amazing. When I saw it referenced in a book I was reading, I decided that it was going to be the next novel I was going to read. Well, it is not a common theme in literature period.
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad | Penguin Random House Canada
How many really good novels were written about terrorism? There are plenty of books written about terrorism mostly by journalists and political analyst , but in the literary world it still seems to be somewhat of a taboo. Interesting that today when terrorism is so wide spread - it not as a common theme in literature as one might expect. So, it was certainly fascinating seeing that someone explored this subject a while back. Having read it, I can say that it does more than just create a plot around a terrorist act. I would say Conrad handled the subject matter very well.
By creating a protagonist who becomes a terrorist only to keep his job as a secret agent that he desperately needs so he would be able to support his family , he added an ironic twist to the narrative.
Verloc is by no means a likeable character. Yet, there is something very tragic about his life. Supposedly, Mata Hari was killed not because she spied for the Germans but because she failed to supply her employers with any kind of valuable information so they decided to use her as a scapegoat and let her take the fall, correctly figuring out that nobody will miss an aging dancer turned prostitute. Somehow Mr. Verloc reminded me of her. He is an easy pray for someone like Mr.
The blending of domestic and personal tragedies with political schemes and madness was done particularly well. Secret agents are supposed to fight off terrorists, not become terrorists themselves- or are they? Unemployment, lack of money, poverty- those are the motifs behind many actions. There is no place for romanticism here. How much does an average person hide? How much do we hide from ourselves and others? What are our secrets? A reminder that- both as individuals and society, we all seem to hide a lot. The atmosphere of isolation seemed to be particularly strong in this one.
There is a lot of irony written in dialogues, it is very present in the discourse between characters and it only strengthens this feeling. The sinister side of organized power appears as potentially horrifying as the violent madness of anarchism. The conversations between anarchists chilled my blood. The fact that many of them in this novel are pathetic figures who prefer talking to doing, doesn't make them less scary. The fascination with death, the desire to end it all- these things are very real.
Moreover, these feelings 'of wanting it all to end' can be found in present days as well. The sort of moral ambiguity that is so prevalent today is a slippery ground. Anarchism flourishes easily on the fertile land of moral ambiguity. When it comes to describing every physical and psychological aspect of his time, this writer really takes his time- to the point it can be distracting to the narrative.
It did take me a long time to read it, but to be fair- it was no fault of this novel. The only fault I could find with the novel is a bit of unbalance. Conrad is amazing when it comes to drawing incredibly detailed portraits of all of his characters, but there was a point when the combination of profound soul searching and the succession of characters felt overwhelming. I did enjoy reading this one and for the most part the plot seemed well developed. I only struggled a bit when it came to the middle of the novel.
Make Sense of the world
At times I even struggled with keeping my focus, but in the end it was more than worth it. The ending was immensely powerful. The actions of one female character and her complete transformation caught me completely by surprise, but all the same- it made perfect sense in the context of this sad story. I felt like I saw another side to Conrad, another style of writing that is more bitter and naturalistic than poetic, but equally brilliant.
Would I recommend it? It is an original and a though-provoking novel, albeit a rather depressive one. Londres , Descubra nessa novela magistral : O agente Secreto.