The Secret Agent (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Secret Agent (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The Secret Agent (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Joseph Conrad

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593083052
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 03/01/2007
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 88,176
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) grew up amid political unrest in Russian-occupied Poland. After twenty years at sea with the French and British merchant navies, he settled in England in 1894. Over the next three decades he revolutionized the English novel with books such as Typhoon, Nostromo, The Secret Agent, and especially Heart of Darkness, his best-known and most influential work.

Date of Birth:

December 3, 1857

Date of Death:

August 3, 1924

Place of Birth:

Berdiczew, Podolia, Russia

Place of Death:

Bishopsbourne, Kent, England


Tutored in Switzerland. Self-taught in classical literature. Attended maritime school in Marseilles, France

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Secret Agent (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A couple small critiques before I heap praise onto Conrad's The Secret Agent. First, Steven Marcus (the writer of the Introduction and Endnotes) appears to do too much work within this. Over 90 pages of introductory material that give away key plot points, it's best if it is skipped and then read afterwards, if you wish. The endnotes are also much more numerous than necessary; in fact, quite a few of them refer to knowledge that may be common to yourself. They also often refer back to the introduction, which suckers readers into perusing it for more information. Second, Conrad (to paraphrase a review found in the rear of the book) lengthens a short story. This is a novel that could easily be 70 pages long, if not for the over-descriptive text in-between conversations describing characters emotions hanging on every statement. But there is a catch-22. This is necessary, though not at the time. Conrad plays up simple conversations which enhances some foreshadowing by attempting to create dramatic tension in seemingly normal conversations. By doing so, he lengthens a story, which the reader realizes is running on far too long about half-way through it, when a simple two-minute conversation is stretched out over 20 or so pages through Conrad's flowery descriptions of the inner-workings of the character's minds. This is all annoying to the audience, but we find out it is necessary during the novel's climax, in which (avoiding spoilers while describing as best I can here) Conrad finally enchants us with the back-and-forth mind-readings of a psychological breakdown and the blissfully unaware victim. If Conrad does not prepare us properly for this descriptive scene, we are feeling that the climax is aggressively drawn out, and thus seems unreal. By stretching out the novel, he allows the plot to simmer slowly, instead of microwaving his soup. For readers who can afford to plow through intricately sowed fields of plot, the payoff is one that provides a couple of excellently played twists at the end. For those that are impatient, this novel is one they should pass up; but they do so at their own spoils.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Ryan Mihalak More than 1 year ago
I would have given it 5 stars except for the idiotic and long intro (80 pages, really?) included. I read to escape the reality of the world, if only for a few minutes. I don't need 1/4 of a book (literally) comprised of an intro, written by a liberal hack. I bought this book for Conrad's writing, not Steven Marcus (if I wanted to read his writings, I'd search out his published works). Not sure I'll ever buy a B&N classics book again - I'll try to find an out of print copy or alternative means. Secondly, he gives away the book in his intro. For such an "esteemed" writer, you'd think he'd know how an intro should be penned.
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Manirul More than 1 year ago
Lovely...! beautiful.....!.... Just enjoy it.....!
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Gtg be on tomorrow
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Same here. My wifi is being totes irregs. [Totally irregular] so... bye
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