The Secret Agent
A Simple Tale
Publication Date: December 14, 2004
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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
Edited and with Notes by Peter Lancelot Mallios
Introduction by Robert D. Kaplan
In reexamining The Secret Agent in a post-9/11 world, Robert D. Kaplan praises Joseph Conrad’s “surgical insight into the mechanics of terrorism,” calling the book “a fine example of how a savvy novelist may detect the future long before a social scientist does.”
This intense 1907 thriller–a precursor to works by Graham Greene and John le Carré–concerns a British double agent who infiltrates a cabal of anarchists. Conrad explores political and criminal intrigue in a modern society, building to a climax that the critic F. R. Leavis deemed “one of the most astonishing triumphs of genius in fiction.”
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 works such as Typhoon (1902), Youth (1902), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), Under Western Eyes (1911), Chance (1913), and Victory (1915).