Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Secret Agent - by Joseph Conrad.

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
The Secret Agent
by Joseph Conrad

The Secret Agent
is a 1907 novel by Joseph Conrad. (US Edition)  (UK Edition)  It is a very good novel from an excellent writer.  Because it deals with terrorism, it has a higher profile now than before September 11.  (There was an excellent movie adaptation in 1996 with Robin Williams in an unaccredited role.)

The novel starts with a strong first paragraph!  It really draws you in.  It is a cynical novel and so quite in tune with our sensibilities.

Mr Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law. It could be done, because there was very little business at any time, and practically none at all before the evening. Mr Verloc cared but little about his ostensible business. And, moreover, his wife was in charge of his brother-in-law.

 And here is some of the undercover work:
He made no sign of greeting; neither did Mr Verloc, who certainly knew his place; but a subtle change about the general outlines of his shoulders and back suggested a slight bending of Mr Verloc's spine under the vast surface of his overcoat. The effect was of unobtrusive deference. 
"I have here some of your reports," said the bureaucrat in an unexpectedly soft and weary voice, and pressing the tip of his forefinger on the papers with force. He paused; and Mr Verloc, who had recognised his own handwriting very well, waited in an almost breathless silence. "We are not very satisfied with the attitude of the police here," the other continued, with every appearance of mental fatigue. 

The shoulders of Mr Verloc, without actually moving, suggested a shrug. 

And for the first time since he left his home that morning his lips opened. 

"Every country has its police," he said philosophically. But as the official of the Embassy went on blinking at him steadily he felt constrained to add: "Allow me to observe that I have no means of action upon the police here." 

"What is desired," said the man of papers, "is the occurrence of something definite which should stimulate their vigilance. That is within your province--is it not so?"
So read on and let this book give up its secrets to you.  

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