The Secret Agent : A Simple Tale, Paperback Book

The Secret Agent : A Simple Tale Paperback

Edited by John Lyon

Part of the Oxford World's Classics series

3 out of 5 (3 ratings)


'An impenetrable mystery seems destined to hang for ever over this act of madness or despair.' Mr Verloc, the secret agent, keeps a shop in London's Soho where he lives with his wife Winnie, her infirm mother, and her idiot brother, Stevie. When Verloc is reluctantly involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory things go disastrously wrong, and what appears to be 'A Simple Tale' proves to involve politicians, policemen, foreign diplomats and London's fashionable society in the darkest and most surprising interrelations.

Based on the text which Conrad's first English readers enjoyed, this new edition includes a critical introduction which describes Conrad's great London novel as the realization of a 'monstrous town', a place of idiocy, madness, criminality, and butchery.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher. While this is one of the classics, it did not grab me in a couple hours of dedicated listening, so I put it aside. This is the third try, so I give up.

Review by

A fantastic read. I first read this novel as an undergraduate nearly thirty years ago and was immediately taken by the sheer plausibility of it's setting and characters.Re-reading it now I was struck by how contemporary it seems, even though it was originally published as long ago as 1908, during a period in which Britain seemed all to gruesomely concerned with the menace of imminent war with Germany.The various revolutionaries and anarchists have their own well defined networks, but so, too, do the police who struggle pot keep tabs on the various foreign nationals of ill repute. Conrad even delves into the depths of political dispute, introducing an unnamed Home Secretary who is daily attacked in the Commons and lambasted in the popular press.All together this is an impressive journal capturing the suspicious and pessimistic zeitgeist of the time, lovingly rendered in Conrad's characteristically flawless prose.An absolute treat - I just wish I had re-read it far sooner.

Review by

This is a random read from the "1001 books you should read before you die"-list, so I knew nothing about this book other than its title. I started reading, and from the start I really didn't like it. In fact, I actively disliked it. I found the first half of the book to be a muddled and messy blend of politics, social commentary, satire and attempts at humour. As standalone elements all of these would probably have held up, but the way in which they were blended together made the story confusing, really hard to read, and disagreeable to me. Considering how little was actually happening, it was baffling how hard it was to keep up with it.Then everything changed.The mood of the book changed drastically. The relatively lighthearted, almost superficial, story turned dark. It became intense, emotional and gripping. One passage in particular, which takes up most of the second half of the book, had me completely gripped. The situation isn't particularly dramatic, but the way in which it is recounted is extremely immersive. After reading it I felt like I'd been holding my breath for a few hours. A lot of time is spent describing a very sort passage of time, yet not a word is wasted. One of the characters is in an extremely fragile emotional state, and as they get closer and closer to the edge, I found myself dreading what would happen when they fell off it. But I had to know. I had to continue reading. Way past when I should have gone to sleep.Concluding anything about this book is very difficult. Perhaps the start of the book was necessary for the rest of it to be so good. Maybe the contrast in mood and tone is what made the book have such an impact on me. I'm not sure whether I'd recommend it or not. I really, really didn't enjoy the first part of the book, and I'm finding it hard to describe how much I enjoyed the last part. Take from that what you will.

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