Under Western Eyes
By Joseph Conrad
(Wildside Press, Hardcover, 9781434495181, 396pp.)
Publication Date: November 2007
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Under Western Eyes traces a sequence or error, guilt, and expiation. Its composition placed such demands upon Conrad that he suffered a serious breakdown upon its completion. It is by common critical consent one of his finest achievements. Bomb-throwing assassins, political repression and revolt, emigre revolutionaries infiltrated by a government spy: much of Under Western Eyes (1911) is more topical than we might wish. Set in tsarist Russia and in Geneva, its concern with perennial issues of human responsibility gives it a lasting moral force. The contradictory demands placed upon men and women by the social and political convulsions of the modern age have never been more revealingly depicted. Joseph Conrad personally felt no sympathy with either Russians or revolutionaries. None the less his portrayal of both in Under Western Eyes is dispassionate and disinterested. Through the Western eyes of his narrator we are given a sombre but not entirely pessimistic view of the human dilemmas which are born of oppression and violence.