The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
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The Secret Agent" is considered to be one of Joseph Conrad's finest works and was ranked the 46th best novel of the 20th century by the Modern Library. Set in London at the end of the nineteenth century, it follows the life of Mr. Verloc, a secret agent who is also the proprietor of a small shop that sells, “photographs of more or less undressed dancing girls” and “a few books, with titles hinting at impropriety.“ Verloc’s friends, a group of anarchists, assign him the task of destroying the Greenwich Observatory, but when things go awry, Verloc must deal with the terrible consequences of his actions. As current now, as it was a century ago, Conrad weaves a chilling tale of espionage, exploitation and terrorism that is all too present in our own time.
never dream of directing you to organize a mere butchery, even if I expected the best results from it. But I wouldn’t expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is almost an institution. The demonstration must be against learning—science. But not every science will do. The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression, it would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. But that
himself that the mental state of the renowned Chief Inspector seemed to affect the outline of his lower jaw, as if the lively sense of his high professional distinction had been located in that part of his anatomy, dismissed the point for the moment with a calm “I see.” Then leaning his cheek on his joined hands: “Well, then—speaking privately if you like—how long have you been in private touch with this Embassy spy?” To this inquiry the private answer of the Chief Inspector, so private that it
“absent-minded” now. They agreed as to that. It could not be denied. Much less—hardly at all. They shouted at each other in the jingle with comparative cheerfulness. But suddenly the maternal anxiety broke out afresh. There were two omnibuses to take, and a short walk between. It was too difficult! The old woman gave way to grief and consternation. Winnie stared forward. “Don’t you upset yourself like this, mother. You must see him, of course.” “No, my dear. I’ll try not to.” She mopped her
was her work. And with peaceful pride she congratulated herself on a certain resolution she had taken a few years before. It had cost her some effort, and even a few tears. She congratulated herself still more on observing in the course of days that Mr. Verloc seemed to be taking kindly to Stevie’s companionship. Now, when ready to go out for his walk, Mr. Verloc called aloud to the boy, in the spirit, no doubt, in which a man invites the attendance of the household dog, though, of course, in a
For the first time in his life he was taking that incurious woman into his confidence. The singularity of the event, the force and importance of the personal feelings aroused in the course of this confession, drove Stevie’s fate clean out of Mr. Verloc’s mind. The boy’s stuttering existence of fears and indignations, together with the violence of his end, had passed out of Mr. Verloc’s mental sight for a time. For that reason, when he looked up he was startled by the inappropriate character of