4 thoughts on “Fear and loathing of terrorism: Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent

  1. ” Mr Verloc is an anarchist in the pay of a Foreign Power”
    A spy on the anarchists, actually.

    “who has been instructed to cause a senseless and destructive act that will cause chaos in the British public’s trust in their authorities. ”
    He is forced to become an agent-provocateur and instigate an action rather than passing on useless (and possibly invented) information about the anarchists. His “control” (who’s pretty obviously Russian) wants to force the British government to abandon its policy of toleration for foreign political criminals by making it look as if the criminals are taking action in Britain.
    It’s been suggested that before 2001 the British government took a similar attitude to muslim fanatics. There was – it’s said – an unspoken laissez-faire policy between them.

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  2. Must have been a poignant read! The public mood seems to be that people are trying to resist fear and show solidarity, rather in the way that the British public invented vulgar songs about Nazi leaders. I don’t suppose that scenario would fit too well in Conrad…?

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    1. Not so much poignant as brrrrr …. I don’t think Conrad thought too much of the great unwashed and uneducated. He’s simply horrible about Winnie’s intellect.

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  3. The most chilling scene in the novel for me was, I think, the final one. The Professor walking off into a London evening with every intention of repeating his murderous trade. Conrad seemed to imbue him with an eternal quality, a perverted Everyman who walks through every age.

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