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The Secret Agent

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  14,525 Ratings  ·  962 Reviews
The Secret Agent is Joseph Conrad's dark satire on English society, edited with an introduction and notes by Michael Newton in Penguin Classics.

In the only novel Conrad set in London, The Secret Agent communicates a profoundly ironic view of human affairs. The story is woven around an attack on the Greenwich Observatory in 1894 masterminded by Verloc, a Russian spy working
Paperback, 269 pages
Published August 2nd 2007 by Penguin Classics (first published 1907)
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May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have only run across a few writers who can adeptly and accurately plumb the depths of the human soul.

Joseph Conrad is one of those authors and he is on a short list of talented creators who seem to have two fingers on the pulse of primordial man as he still lives and breathes beneath the surface composure of his civilized evolution.

For Conrad, the ability to strip off the etiquette, culture, and social mores of western thought is as eventful as watching sun bathers lose their clothing on the
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bitchin
In the aftermath of a tragedy people often look towards artists, towards novelists, musicians and poets also, for comfort, the kind of comfort one finds when someone is able to capture an event, or feelings, that you yourself find incomprehensible or unfathomable or inexpressible. For example, after 9/11 there was a rush to proclaim certain kinds of art as speaking for the time[s], and it was then that Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent received a lot of attention, it being a novel concerned with ...more
Luís C.
London muddy, rain and soot, mist and fog. In a one-eyed street in Soho, Mr. Verloc runs his small business, a very discreet shop for male customers, confidentially selling a heterogeneous set of newspapers with revolutionary tendencies and discreetly sealed shady merchandise, which are conducive to satisfying and flattering instincts of his gentlemen. The worthy trader took charge of his wife's family, wife of erased, family composed of a simple-minded and influential brother-in-law as well as ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature
My ratings are very moody and just generally not to be trusted. Having gotten that fact out in the open for the umpteenth time, I will say that I thought this was a very good book. Love, no. Like very much, yes. I especially hearted the last-ish part with the wife and the train and ole dude's stop, drop, and roll in mid-air move because ACTION! SUSPENSE! HEARTBREAK! PLOTSY TWIRLS! In fact, most of my favorite scenes involved Winnie V, while some other sections, particularly some of the more beat ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I can appreciate this novel is pretty wonderful. And as I read more and more I was fascinated, but I did find it hard going at the start. I think the plot is horrific, and it made me want to research the Greenwich Bomb in more detail. I think it was a pretty daring book for Conrad to release at such a time with such detailed observations on spying and terrorism. It's still an incredibly relevant work even now in the current climate.
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Grand opera.
Tosca stabs Scarpia. Victorian London, amid a nest of spies
and terrorists. Classic stuff fr a non-stylist who is, nonetheless, a great writer (Conrad's first language was Polish, his 2d French, he wrote in English). A strong influence on Graham Greene, Conrad rips open a marital horror bet a scuzzy anarchist and his simple wife after her teen brud is killed x his bomb.

Their marriage was legalized prostitution and, in her outrage, the shattered sister becomes a murderer. "She did not
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My best friend Joel has a friend Bob who teaches at Rutgers. Nearly a decade ago, before becoming a scholarly expert on Borat, he stated that in terms of literature he wasn't going to bother with anything written later than 1920; what was the point, he'd quip? I admired his pluck. While I'm not sure he still ascribes to such. Well, for a couple of weeks in 2004 I adhered to the goal. There have been many goals with a similar history and such a sad conclusion: sigh. This was my first effort towar ...more
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I thought that The Secret Agent was a genuinely fascinating profile of modern (by which I mean 1905) London society, and I found Conrad's picture of society being driven by personal interest and the lust for political power to be incredibly modern (by which I mean 2008) in its deep pessimism and sceptical view of human nature. Conrad presents us with a wide spectrum of characters, from loyal wives and impoverished cabdrivers to police officers and activist anarchists, each of whom is motivated ...more
Tyler Jones
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is one of the finest novels of the 20th Century for the following reasons:

1) The language is magnificent. For a reader such as myself, who likes to get lost in tangential thoughts mid-sentence, Conrad offers a warm bath we can soak in. I often just let the sentences flow over me in waves of color and music (I usually read Faulkner this way too), but if I want to stop and extract all the meaning from one of his dense little beauties I just pull the golden ribbon and what appears to b
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bu kitap öncelikle roman görünümlü bir şiir kitabı. Böyle olunca nefret ediyorum işte. Bir sürü kitaba 5 yıldız verdim, pki ben şimdi bu kitaba kaç yıldız vereceğim? Bu kitap hepsinden daha güzel.
Hiç bu kadar dolu bir kitap okumamıştım. Yani Dosto Baba kusura bakmasında bu kitap bir acaip.
Bir kere dedim ya şiir gibi. O kadar güzel okunuyor ki. Yani buram buram edebiyat kokuyor. Üslup bir harika. Sanki kalemle yazılmamış, adeta eline çekici, murcu almış koca bir kayayı heykeltıraş gibi kıra dov
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Second book in a row that appears on American high school curriculum and this time I have to wonder what educators are trying to achieve by teaching it. The text is very dense and I can't imagine many teens getting anything out of this when having it forced upon them. Without a doubt Conrad can tell stories and knows the words to tell them with but Jesus he has inspired the least impressive review I have ever felt the need to write. Page after page of political ranting, no thank you. I'm sorry D ...more
Apr 20, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I actually thought the first chapter was perfection. So how could the creator of that chapter have produced the second chapter, allowing everything he'd built up to be ravaged by adverbs? Did Conrad use up his Spidey juice? Or was he saving his talent for later efforts, believing one solid chapter would be enough to lull the reader into head-bobbing idolatry? I don't get it.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My first Joseph Conrad. Like Clarice Lispector, he was born in Ukraine but was raised elsewhere (Poland, in Conrad's case).

The impression this book left me is that Conrad wasn't only a gifted storyteller with deep psychological insights, but he was also the type who can erupt with melodious and poetic language even in such trifles as a cabman looking at some pieces of silver given to him by a passenger as payment for a ride:

"The cabman looked at the pieces of silver, which, appearing very minut
Apr 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bryan Johnson
Trying to decide if you “liked” a book can become a complicated process. Oh, not for some books. Some books catch you quickly and slyly sink in and mingle with your reality and whisper to you during the day when you are supposed to be working or driving or running. But there are some just plain stubborn books; books that almost seem to be daring you to put them down and move on to something else. Conrad’s The Secret Agent affected me that way. I read the Introduction, the select Bibliography, th ...more
First published in 1907, this spy fiction might be a literary adventure to those unfamiliar with Joseph Conrad's writing style enriched by apt, scholarly words and idioms admirable for his writing as his third language. From its 13 chapters, I found reading its first three fourths confusing due to its plot; however, I kept reading and gradually saw the light around Chapters 9-10 onwards. Then I enjoyed reading Chapter 11 in which I christened by noting as a tragic chapter since all episodes reac ...more
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is a re-read - chosen because it was a small hardback copy and fitted in my inside pocket so's I could read on the train (replacement bus!) on a trip to the folks. About time I re-read anyway, the last time was for 'A' level in 1973. The copy I have is a school copy too (from 1960), and has double lines next to paragraphs saying 'IRONY' and others 'DESCRIPTION' - I'm glad they told me, I wouldn't have known.

Read c100 pages on the trip there and back and it's as good as I remember, although
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started this book during a speed dating project and decided to try to finish all those books I dated and decided to keep and finish before the end of 2015.

Conrad himself had to defend this book to critics - it isn't his usual style, they didn't understand the context, etc. There is a brief intro in my edition by Conrad that attempts to justify it, but to me it was a justification it didn't need.

Published in 1907, the central story of this short (but incredibly dense) novel is a bombing scheme
Yasmine Carlson
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This indelible 1907 novel from Conrad (What a master of psychology he is!) can teach us a lot about contemporary terrorism; the thoughts and methods of terrorists, their dark fascination with pure destructiveness and death, and their sick impulse to purge the world of the unworthy. A must read for anyone attempting to understand the motives behind the political violence and rampant totalitarianisms of yesterday and today
Neil Denham
Oct 14, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
really tedious. i know many regard it as a classic, but i found any story there is in there is swamped by odd details, confusing political ramblings and side musings that appear unrelated. perhaps i am just not clever enough to 'get it'...
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: english, read-in-2017
This book of madness and despair.
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
The inner workings of a terrorist cell are examined in this tale of ideology and betrayal. Should be required reading for military/law enforcement personnel.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Laura, Wanda et al
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Like his fellow genius scribes, E. Bronte and Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad plunges us into the dark Nietzschean swamps of the human soul. He dares to look into the abyss and unflinchingly reaches in, grasping the monsters within us. With his adept hands, in the blazing light of his vision and words, Conrad holds us up to ourselves.

Winne Verloc, like Kurtz, is vividly cast. She is a white, hot flash of brilliance. Conrad depicts her in crystal clear pitch. She seems to be drawn from Ophelia, innoce
Oct 07, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone not afraid
First, I tend to dislike Conrad as a matter of principle, maybe because I was force fed Heart of Darkness in school...

The Secret Agent, however, is unique among Conrad's "work." First of all, the cynicism is directed not just at one or two groups but the entire culture of the western world and the many flawed sub-cultures springing from it. Each group has an anti-hero that you find yourself rooting for one moment and rooting for another character to catch him the next...

There is a tragic death e
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conrad can be remarkably prescient--there are so many lines in here that made me think of 9/11, Al Qaeda, and our contemporary conflict in Afghanistan. "Madness alone is truly terrifying," he writes, "inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes." Later he writes, "There were no rules for dealing with anarchists."
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to James by: Will Self
With G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday sitting on my to-read list for a while now it seemed like a happy coincidence when Will Self chose it as his favourite cultural work on an episode of Front Row recently. He'd recently reread the novel and this one, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent , back to back. Never one to walk away from a reading challenge, and having a copy of The Secret Agent already on my Kindle, I thought I'd do the same.

The secret agent is Mr Adolf Verloc, an odd little
J.M. Hushour
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For all the shrill panegyrics bookending this novel (foreword and afterword), that shriek of its relevance in a post-9/11 world and all that usual bullshit, it is perhaps surprising to find the work as quiet and modest a story as it is. This is no tale of terror. If anything it's a boccioni-esque account of the spaces left behind by acts and thoughts of terror. The sole actual terrorist act occurs off-page and the bulk of the book is consumed with the banal descent of everyone involved, the Secr ...more
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A novel of madness in a time of despair. At once both a harsh and scathing critique of anarchism and terrorism. Conrad produced a bomb throwing novel about the throwing of bombs, or as better said by Patrick Reilly the Secret Agent is "a terrorist text as well as a text about terrorism."
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Very very enjoyable!

What struck me most is Conrad mastery at displaying a collection of egotist to tell us a story where admittedly the degree of pettiness seems to go hand in hand with social class. But be it Verloc, or his wife, or Ossipon, or the Professor, or inspector Heat, each is completely and utterly preoccupied with his or her immediate needs, taking for granted that everything else accords to his or her picture of the world. Tragic is the vane attempt to change the course of their li
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Joseph Conrad was a contemporary of many of my favorite writers. So I really have no logical excuse for putting off his novels and stories for so long. Having recently finished his very dark spy tale, The Secret Agent, I wish I had started his books a long time ago.

The Secret Agent was published in 1907, but the story it tells is actually set in 1886. But the book does not, in my opinion, feel “Victorian”. If I was looking to compare Conrad’s writing style to that of other writers, my most like
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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 about Joseph Conrad...
“We can never cease to be ourselves.” 52 likes
“Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it by threats, persuasion, or bribes.” 23 likes
More quotes…