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 Carre-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.
About the Author
Joseph Conrad [born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski] (1857-1924), was a Polish born mariner and writer who, after a turbulent youth, moved first to France and then Britain. He spent most of his twenties and thirties working on various ships, from wealthy three-masters to rusty steamers, voyaging around the world and rising in rank until he attained a master's certificate in 1886. The same year Conrad took British nationality. His marine career came finally to an end in 1894 due to increasing importance of steam sail, for which Conrad's qualifications were not satisfactory.He then began his literary career, for he was drafting stories in his spare time even when working at sea. After a slow start, the major success came between 1897 and 1911 with publications of short stories and novels such as 'Youth' (1898), Lord Jim (1899), Heart of Darkness (1899), Typhoon (1902), Nostromo (1904), The Secret Agent (1907), 'The Secret Sharer' (1910) and Under Western Eyes (1911).Conrad's works were influenced by his sea voyages and adventures, and his novels often revolve around the significance of imperial enterprises and the moral dilemmas they inflict. The echoes of his Polish upbringing in a difficult political time may be traced in the underlining sense of isolation, embattled honour, and political disillusionment prevailing many of his works.Because of the exotic settings and adventurous plots of Conrad's works on one hand, and the moral complexity of his characters on the other, many of his works became an inspiration for stage and film adaptations.
Robert D. Kaplan is the author of over a dozen books on foreign affairs and travel, including "Balkan Ghosts", "Eastward to Tartary", and "Warrior Politics".