The Secret Agent

- Joseph Conrad
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In this world of modern day spying, Joseph Conrad's spy story, _The Secret Agent,_ is very pertinent. It deals with the over reaching influence of politics in everyday life, the sordid underbelly that lies beneath our civilization's sophisticated veneer, the strange persuasive power of anarchy, unbridled capitalism and its tragic consequences and the scourge of terrorism, exploitation and espionage. In an uncannily prophetic plot, _The Secret Agent_ portrays a sinister scheme to bomb the famous Greenwich Observatory in London. Mr. Adolf Verloc is a lazy, indolent shopkeeper (who had “an air of having wallowed all day fully dressed in an unmade bed”) and owns a tiny establishment in a dingy back street in Soho. The store which sells a variety of merchandise, including “dirty pictures” contraceptives, patent medicines, cheap stationery and the like is merely a front for his real activities. He and his group of shady friends are anarchists who seek to destroy the established government in England. They also secretly print subversive literature and circulate it surreptitiously throughout the country. The police have their suspicions but are yet to get clinching evidence. Verloc is challenged by a high-ranking official of a foreign embassy to prove his commitment to the cause. Verloc's family members who are completely unaware of his duplicity, are tragically drawn into the situation, as the bomb explosion has a far reaching impact on innocent people. Joseph Conrad, or Jozef Teodor Korzeniowski, was granted English citizenship in 1886 after he sought asylum. The injustices and atrocities in pre-Revolution Russia had made his family move several times across different countries. His father was imprisoned and the family was later exiled to the bitterly cold Volgoda in Northern Russia. Jozef's father died of tuberculosis contracted in the harsh conditions. Jozef too suffered bad health and was a poor student. His uncle and guardian finally suggested that he seek naturalization in the United States or the UK. He joined the merchant navy but resigned at the age of 36 following a health breakdown. In 1895 he published _Almayer's Folly_ under the name Joseph Conrad, and it marked the debut of a gifted, sensitive and deeply humane writer and a teller of wonderfully exotic, romantic tales of faraway lands. _The Secret Agent_ marks a departure from Conrad's nautical novels, but retains the unique “foreign” flavor that characterizes Conrad's writing. Conrad's works are also characterized by his deeply moral outlook, ethical views and his gift for creating highly readable, memorable fiction. _The Secret Agent_ is indeed a gripping and interesting read.

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