Secret Agent (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of ...

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Overview

The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Set in early twentieth-century London and inspired by an actual attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory, The Secret Agent is a complex exploration of motivation and morality. The title character, Adolf Verloc, is obviously no James Bond. In fact, he and his circle of misfit saboteurs are not spies but terrorists, driven less by political ideals than by their unruly emotions and irrational hatreds.

Verloc has settled into an apparent marriage of convenience. Family life gives him a respectable cover, while his wife hopes to get help in handling her halfwit brother, Stevie. Instead Verloc involves Stevie in one of his explosive schemes, an act that leads to violence, murder, and revenge.

Darkly comic, the novel is also obliquely autobiographical: Joseph Conrad’s parents were involved in the radical politics of their time, and their early deaths left him profoundly distrustful of any sort of political action.

Steven Marcus is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, and a specialist in nineteenth-century literature and culture. He is the author of more than 200 publications.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593083052
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 119,025
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Marcus is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, and a specialist in nineteenth-century literature and culture. He is the author of more than 200 publications.

Biography

Joseph Conrad (originally Józef Teodor Konrad Nalecz Korzeniowski) was born in the Ukraine in 1857 and grew up under Tsarist autocracy. His parents, ardent Polish patriots, died when he was a child, following their exile for anti-Russian activities, and he came under the protection of his tradition-conscious uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who watched over him for the next twenty-five years. In 1874 Bobrowski conceded to his nephew's passionate desire to go to sea, and Conrad travelled to Marseilles, where he served in French merchant vessels before joining a British ship in 1878 as an apprentice.

In 1886 he obtained British nationality and his Master's certificate in the British Merchant Service. Eight years later he left the sea to devote himself to writing, publishing his first novel, Almayer's Folly, in 1895. The following year he married Jessie George and eventually settled in Kent, where he produced within fifteen years such modern classics as Youth, Heart of Darkness, Lord Jim, Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent and Under Western Eyes. He continued to write until his death in 1924. Today Conrad is generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of fiction in English -- his third language. He once described himself as being concerned "with the ideal value of things, events and people" in the Preface to The Nigger of the Narcissus he defined his task as "by the power of the written word ... before all, to make you see."

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jósef Teodor Konrad Walecz Korzeniowski (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 3, 1857
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      August 3, 1924
    2. Place of Death:
      Bishopsbourne, Kent, England

Read an Excerpt

From Steven Marcus’s Introduction to The Secret Agent

Ever since the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center in September 2001, Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent has figured prominently as an object of exemplary reference. In the incessant stream of published commentary, analysis, opinion, and moralizing reflection that such a devastating event inevitably brings forth, Conrad’s novel has been repeatedly annexed as both illustration and in support of a wide range of interpretative perspectives. For the most part, journalistic commentary has focused upon the figure of the Professor, and has included incidental references to the more bloodthirsty utterances of the other anarchist characters. In 1906–1907, so this line of discussion goes, Conrad had clairvoyantly perceived the catastrophic consequences that the European traditions of radical and revolutionary political theory, ideology, and practice were to bring about, and The Secret Agent is to be understood by us today as in this sense both prophetic and minatory.

Other readings of a more “centrist” persuasion stress the symbiotic relation between the police and the terrorists, that they often “come from the same basket.” The elaborate “game” in which continuous surveillance by the police authorities and toleration of radical political dissent are simultaneously played off against one another creates a situation of stress and conflict in which government, imperfect enough as it is, tends to over-respond on the side of security. In doing so the state violates the liberties of freedom of opinion and expression that it has also been mandated to sustain and that the radical dissenters claim as rights belonging to them as equal members of a democratic, liberal society. Encroachment on or invasion of such rights serves chiefly to expose the substantial elements of untruth and hypocrisy in liberal ideology, reinforces dissident and radical fixed opinion as to the wholesale illegitimacy of prevailing political and social institutions, and prompts those already in opposition to further measures of “resistance.”

A bit further along on the spectrum of interpretation is the contention that the political society attacked and wounded by the terrorists is itself in considerable part responsible for the destruction brought down on its head—this may be called the chickens have come home to roost hypothesis. Finally, there are a number of far-out or advanced readings. There is, first, the inference that the entire scenario was masterminded by the host-victim itself or by one of its surrogates. Just as the scheme against the Greenwich Observatory is the brainchild of the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, so too the “non-appearance” of Jewish employees at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11 clearly points to . . . etc. And in addition, exactly as the scenario in Conrad was deliberately cooked up to inspire repressive official action against the anarchists, so too in our time the subsequent administration fantasy of weapons of mass destruction was part of a concerted authoritarian effort to bamboozle the public and justify aggressive military intervention in Iraq.

Such diverse readings—most of them containing at least a few granules of insight—suggest both the force and complexity of Conrad’s imaginative vision along with the force and complexity of the events of recent history, as well as the urgency that actuates our responses to both. In point of fact, ever since its first appearance The Secret Agent has acted as a special screen for the projection by readers of varying interpretations of the modern world. As culture and society change, and the minds and sensibilities of readers change in some inexact but correlated dimension, so too, apparently, do great works of art. That is one crude and incomplete way of describing how it is that such works both require and sustain continuous and repeated new interpretations.

But of course terrorism, being as it is a form of political behavior and not an ideology or political theory or set of doctrines, can occur almost anywhere—wherever or whenever a group of conditions that include both personal and transpersonal (that is, social, cultural, political, economic, religious) components, circumstances, and motives coincide. Here in the United States, one recalls such disparate and relatively recent phenomena as the Weathermen, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Unabomber. The last of these, Theodore Kaczynski, holed up in his cabin in Montana, kept a copy of The Secret Agent handy to his bedside.

Moreover, terrorism has a long history and is protean in the forms of its occurrence. The historian Walter Laqueur regards it as an “insurrectional strategy that can be used by people of very different political convictions,” and at the same time asserts that “a comprehensive definition of terrorism” does not exist and is not, at least for the foreseeable future, likely to be found. He does not mean that terrorism cannot be analyzed or understood. What he implies is that terrorism exists in too many shapes and occurs in too many dissimilar contexts for it to be adequately or usefully captured in a single universal description. It follows from this consideration that apart from certain very general features, it tends to be characterized by particular and changing constellations of causal influences and intricate, unstable correlations of circumstances and motives.

The kind of terrorism that Conrad dramatizes in The Secret Agent was affiliated with the anarchist movement in European and American political life and thought. This movement found its origins in the after-consequences of the French Revolution. From about 1840 and for a century thereafter, it existed as part of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century radical and revolutionary political and cultural universes. And anarchism itself, in common with other historical revolutionary tendencies, was anything but uniform or unitary. A movement that includes at one end desperate conspirators and terrorists and at the other pacifists, or at yet a third boundary extreme collectivists and communitarians and at a fourth rabid egoists and individualist libertarians seems to have found a means of stretching ideological consensus out of reasonable recognition. And indeed anarchists divided into schisms, factions, and groupuscules as readily and obsessively as other radical political sects. Like other messianic conventicles, they often dedicated as much energy and aggressiveness to internal and intramural disputes as they did in opposition to the great, oppressive arrays of capitalism and the state against which they had originally recruited themselves. In compact, concise strokes, Conrad in The Secret Agent manages distinctively to suggest the rancor and sourness of atmosphere and discourse that were frequently characteristic of such small, splintered, oppositional, and minority groups.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 48 )
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(28)

4 Star

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 49 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2010

    Floating lines and partial paragraphs

    This comment is specific to the eBook version I recently received. There are a number of places where a line (or more) of text is missing. Other times, there is a portion of a paragraph inserted in a place where it clearly does not flow. The galley proof should be checked more carefully before production.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2000

    Secret Agent

    The story itself wasn't complicate at all, but the main charactor's psychological inner struggles make story exciting. Even though the author's mother's tongue was not English, his English vocabularies are limitless and very intelligent.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2014

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

    Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2014

    Morgyn

    Also is pissed because there's another Morgyn at smartphone and Naplo and a Stark at Naplo. Kid's gonna be pissed if he sees that other Morgyn is dating another person. -.-

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Addy

    Otay.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2014

    Morgyn

    Sorry for ruining everyone's life. Adam had to save mine, and I owe him a lot. Tony made me weapons and I have a dept to repay. You guys were all my friends, and I want to return something in exchange. But I just don't know what.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Morgyn

    Thanks. And may she ever accept.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2014

    Avalon

    "Oh my gods, its Disco. I've missed you!" Hugs the discus.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    Addy

    Ah.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Natasha

    Keep going on your assignments. There's nothing too bad for me to put high things on. Good luck.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Vortex

    Um, sure?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2013

    Maadara uchiha

    You can still call me kid if you want

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Fhvhu

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Death the kid

    Gtg be on tomorrow

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Natasha

    Because, Tony. The res are changing. Didn't you notice? And I keep getting locked out. So a LOT of the same res.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    TO ALL IMPORTANT

    OUR FRIEND MY SISTER COMMITEDSUICIDE A COUPLE DAYS AGO IRL? SHE WAS A GOOD FRIEND AND SISTER AND I WILL SURELY MISSS HER AND I HOPE YOU WILL TOO. RIP STORMY -HER SISTER

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2014

    Avril

    Rooooose

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2013

    Char

    Yo kid.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Blackess

    Thanksers, Tony.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

    SuperGirl

    Bye.*she whispered and she flew out*

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