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Under Western Eyes

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,208 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
Under Western Eyes traces a sequence or error, guilt, and expiation. Its composition placed such demands upon Conrad that he suffered a serious breakdown upon its completion. It is by common critical consent one of his finest achievements. Bomb-throwing assassins, political repression and revolt, emigre revolutionaries infiltrated by a government spy: much of Under Western ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 1st 1990 by Penguin Classics (first published 1911)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies, the-russians
“I am quite willing to be the blind instrument of higher ends. To give one's life for the cause is nothing. But to have one's illusions destroyed - that is really almost more than one can bear.”

 photo JosephConrad_zps086a605c.jpg
Joseph Conrad

Razumov is serious about his studies. He is quiet, and like most men who brood, there is attributed to him by the people he knows a depth of wisdom that isn’t due to his eloquent conversations or his grand standing on theories, but simply attributed to him because he doesn’t say enough to d
...more
Steven  Godin
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Under Western eyes, is in many ways Conrad's Crime and Punishment, exploring the similar themes with that of Dostoevsky, Although this for me took longer to get into, the deep and personal aspects remain between the two. Taking place in St Petersburg and Geneva, Switzerland, the central character Razumov a student who aspires to become a member of the Russian civil service is roped into becoming a reluctant revolutionary by Haldin, who after completing the assassination of a minister, takes refu ...more
Lyn
Dec 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conrad's books always seem to start slow as he methodically creates a solid foundation and base of characterization.

This one very much so and yet stays minimalistic and obscure throughout. Under Western Eyes, first published in 1911, had moments of greatness and had many very observant quotes about the Russian character, and Conrad brilliantly creates a mood of introspection and almost surreal soul-searching, but I just could not stay with it.

One of the very few of his works that I just did no
...more
Darwin8u
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
"The belief in a super natural sources of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."
-- Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes

I'm beginning to think there are absolutely no whimsical novels written about the period between Bloody Sunday and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Written in 1911, Conrad's 'Under Western Eyes' is a lot of things: It is his response to the revolutionary fervor in Russia and Eastern Europe. It was a response to Dostoevsky's novel 'Crime and Punishme
...more
Sketchbook
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Conrad's gripping espionager influenced Graham Greene,
Maugham and LeCarre. An apolitical student accidentally
becomes a Czarist spy after he betrays a rebel friend ;
later as a secret agent in Geneva he falls in love with
the fellow's sister. Psychological trauma amid deception,
manipulation and turmoil of the Russian soul.

"Visionaries work everlasting evil on earth," he fears.
"Their Uptopias inspire in the mass of mediocre minds a
disgust of reality." Conrad had little optimism for the
revolution
...more
Jim
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a word, this book was torturous, a long, slow torture. An unreliable narrator intimate with so many details, supposedly due to a diary, & yet unable to truly understand the Russian mind. "Words are the enemy of reality." Truly.

I liked a lot of Conrad's thoughts, depressing as they were. There is a dark incisiveness to them, but as good as they were individually, I found the whole unconvincing & melodramatic.

What impressed me the most were the incredible similarities between Russia un
...more
Mike
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1911, Conrad’s Russia novel (or so I’ve decided to call it) seems to predict the Bolshevik Revolution. It begins with a young student of philosophy, Razumov, who returns to his flat one night to find a classmate, Victor Haldin, standing in his kitchen- or rather, in Conradian fashion, with an English narrator relating Razumov’s story, pieced together from Razumov’s diary and a few encounters with the man. Haldin, it turns out, has just assassinated a high-ranking Russian official, t ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
The fact that the Westerner narrator is an uncomprehending observer (whose character's eyes are in the title 'Under Western Eyes') and that the Russian character of the story, Razumov, has the reputation as a great listener (strikingly so, pun intended) is told us, gentle reader, upfront by the author Joseph Conrad, made strongly explicit. It must mean something.

Razumov is an unformed human being, which in the first chapter is spelled out both in the description of his face as well as his react
...more
J.
That propensity of lifting every problem from the plane of the understandable by means of some sort of mystic expression is very Russian.
It almost seems that Conrad needs the fecundity of the South Seas, or of the African Interior, to counterbalance his methods, his approach. Here in the awfully civilized central European capitals we may find him unusually soap-operatic and slightly overdone. Or maybe it is so close to home for the writer, Polish and born in the Ukraine, that every last semi-l
...more
Vit Babenco
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Conrad stood at the beginning of all modernistic literature of the twentieth century and he was one of the most sagacious writers of all times.
Generally speaking Under Western Eyes is a modern Judas tale ostensibly based on the traitor's confessions.
There are two sides of barricades:
“You suppose that I am a terrorist, now — a destructor of what is, but consider that the true destroyers are they who destroy the spirit of progress and truth, not the avengers who merely kill the bodies of th
...more
David
Aug 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Shelves: read-fiction
From Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes:

-- To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.

That's on the first page!  I knew at that moment that I had chosen the right book.  Also:

-- In Russia, the land of spectral ideas and disembodied aspirations, many brave minds have turned away at last from the vain and endless conflict to the one great historical fact of the land.  They turne
...more
Leslie
Very much in the style of Dostoevsky (not my favorite Russian author) but intriguing look at a young man caught between revolutionaries and self-interest. The double meanings of much of the text are marvelously done. This Conrad novel, from 1911, is quite different from his most famous "Heart of Darkness".
Michael Cayley
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-fiction
One of Conrad's masterpieces. First published in 1911, it was a major influence on spy fiction of the second half of the 20th century, including John Le Carré. Its main characters are involved to greater or lesser extent in Russian revolutionary politics of the later 19th century.

Victor Haldin, having assassinated a Russian government minister, takes refuge in the rooms of a student, Razumov, whom he believes will be sympathetic and assist his escape. After agonising for a while,Razumov betrays
...more
Tristram
„In Life, You See, There Is Not Much Choice. You Have Either to Rot or to Burn.”

As depressing as this limitedness of choice may seem – however, that is exactly what life as such boils down to –, what may be even more depressing is when the decision pounces upon you instead of being taken by you. In short, it is probably worse to be made to burn than to burn. So it happens to Kirylo Sidorovich Razumov, the tragic hero of Joseph Conrad’s political novel Under Western Eyes (1911), who would rather
...more
Paola
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, russia
For me this was a book of two halves - as much as I enjoyed the first two parts, I found myself plodding through the second two. Perhaps it is just that this novel has not aged well: the world is much closer, and the whole premise of western eyes contemplating the inscrutable Russian society applies surely much less, if at all, to the sensibility of any contemporary Western European. In addition, many of the sex stereotypes, though well meant, sound quite tired. The third part, in which Razumov ...more
Peter

I'll start with 2 questions;
Why, I wonder, isn't this novel better known or more widely acclaimed? It shows moments of insight into the beginnings of World War I as well as the nature and outcome of the 2nd, and successful, Russian revolution. All the more remarkable then, is that being published in 1911, it pre-dates both of those two momentous events. Secondly, how to write a review that shows the novels worth without giving it away so as to spoil it for others?

Well, for starters if you like D
...more
Kim
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Under Western Eyes is a novel by Joseph Conrad published in 1911. The novel takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Geneva, Switzerland, and is viewed as Conrad's response to the themes explored in Crime and Punishment; Conrad was reputed to have detested Dostoevsky. That is the first thing I ever read about the book, well besides the title and author name on the cover. I, of course, had to go find out why Conrad despised Dostoevsky, who I would have thought, if I didn't know better, wrote Un
...more
Felice Picano
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title refers to the setting/milieu for 4/5 of this great, all but unknown today, Joseph Conrad novel: i.e. Geneva, Switzerland, in 1907. There, Russian conspirators and Russian secret agents are all gathered to either infiltrate and bring down the repressive Tsarist government or infiltrate and bring to grief the conspirators movement. It's one of the ongoing great stupidities of how literature is taught in American universities that people will graduate with honors having read two of Conrad ...more
Apubakr
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite
تخيل نفسك طالب فلسفة في السنة الثالثة بجامعة سانت بطرسبرج معقل النشاط الثوري الروسي في عام 1910 .. أنت طالب مجتهد جدا ومجد ، مكافح على نحو استثنائي ، غامض وغريب الأطوار .. أنت لا تعرف أباً ولا أماً . مقطوع الأوصال إلا من الإنتماء لروسيا وحدها . بدافع من غموضك المتفرد يُعتقد فيك ميلا ثوريا مكبوتا . لكن على العكس من ذلك تماما أنت ليس لديك أدنى إهتمام باي من القضايا الكبرى . ليس لديك موقف محدد واضح من أي شئ اللهم إلا من مثابرة واصرار على النجاح من ناحية . ومن ناحية أخرى تقدريك وإمتنانك العميق للأمي ...more
A.J.
May 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Under Western Eyes deals with the Russian psyche, is critical of both autocracy and revolution, and gives a psychological portrait of paranoia, suspicion, guilt and despair. The protagonist Razumov is very complex and Conrad forces readers to come to their own conclusions about his character and actions, as well as the reliability of the narrative. While the oft-compared Crime and Punishment’s central conceit is an action the protagonist takes, this novel’s is an action taken upon the protagonis ...more
Brendan Hodge
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-great-war
Re-Read: I re-read this as a sort of atmospheric background reading for the novel section I was writing at the time, and enjoyed it as much as the first time.

-----------------

I hadn't realized, until a friend recommended this book, that Conrad had written any books that weren't set "in the colonies". Come that that, I hadn't realized that he was Polish, which, given that Poland had been divided between Russia and Austria-Hungary meant that he grew up under Russian rule. (His father was an agita
...more
Libyrinths
Writing before the Russian revolution, Conrad tries to elucidate Russia for the western reader. As such, you get some revolutionaries and bureaucrats, and a protagonist caught in between.

The strength of the book is what Conrad's strength often is, his ability to see into the hearts and minds of characters. In this case he is aiming to see into the psychology of Russia as a country, and hits a few bull's eyes. I think the characters suffer a bit from it, but in some ways it makes his points more
...more
Marian Allen
I need another shelf called, "I'm still thinking about it." It struck me as, "What if Dostoevsky and Henry James got married and had a baby and named it CRIME AND PUNISHMENT UNDER WESTERN EYES?" I'm still uncertain whether this book is an exploration of individual characters; an allegory of "oppressive autocracy", "indifferent democracy", and "fanatical revolutionism"; a paean to the power of Woman, or what. Maybe all of the above.

Worth reading? Yes. I'm glad I did. I might even reread it some d
...more
DoctorM
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
Written in the years between the failed revolution of 1905 and the collapse of tsarism in 1917, "Under Western Eyes" is one of the finest political novels of the 20th-century. A meditation on the costs and uses of terror and on the nature of repression, and a novel that bears re-reading all through the new century.
Bruce
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with so many of Conrad’s novels, this one begins with an anonymous narrator, an Englishman, describing how he came across a document from which he will tell the story. The primary plot involves the student Razumov who is interrupted at his lodgings while studying by Haldin, a bare acquaintance and political activitist who has just assassinated an official and seeks a hiding place until he can escape from St. Petersburg. Haldin sends Razumov out into the snow to seek transportation. Razumov, v ...more
Natalie Keating
Even though I'm politically opposed to pretty much everything this book stands for, I stuck enjoyed reading it. The quality of the writing is good, but the rampant Russophobia? Yuck.
Peter Ellwood
I was disappointed. I don’t see this as one of Conrad’s best works. One has to add immediately that it’s still better than most contemporary novels; but it crunched and groaned a little along the way, in my book.

One thing I’ve always marvelled at in Conrad is his sinewy, perfect, use of English. As a student of languages I’ve admired his total mastery of one of the world’s more difficult languages (at least, in terms of using it perfectly). But not in Under Western Eyes. For me, it’s frequently
...more
Dan
Oct 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh how I had hoped this would be so much more than it is.

I have to admit total confusion as to what Conrad hoped to achieve with this novel. What starts off as insight into how precarious and arbitrary life in Russia under the government was at the time of the novel, ends with the (almost) humiliation of the people who sought to revolt against it. Everyone comes out as a loser in the end. Was Conrad trying to say everything in Russia is bad, even the people trying to change Russia? Was he really
...more
Anja
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Finally...
I got through by sheer force of will.
Greg Deane
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1911, Joseph Conrad wrote of “Under Western Eyes” that by 1920 that it had already “become already a sort of historical novel dealing with the past”, given the changes that had occurred in Russia in particular in one short decade.

Even so, Conrad felt justified in congratulating himself on his prescience, voiced through his three principal characters: Haldin, Razumov, and Councillor Mikulin. He claims to have written the work with a detachment, and believes that is the reason for its
...more
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Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.

Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard Br
...more
More about Joseph Conrad...
“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” 507 likes
“Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality.” 71 likes
More quotes…