Under Western Eyes, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


'Whenever two Russians come together, the shadow of autocracy is with them...haunting the secret of their silences.' First published in 1911, Under Western Eyes traces the experiences of Razumov, a young Russian student of philosophy who is uninvolved in politics or protest.

Against his will he finds himself caught up in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing directed against the Tsarist authorities.

He is pulled in different directions - by his conscience and his ambitions, by powerful opposed political forces, but most of all by personal emotions he is unable to suppress. Set in St Petersburg and Geneva, the novel is in part a critical response to Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment but it is also a startlingly modern book. Viewed through the 'Western eyes' of Conrad's English narrator, Razumov's story forces the reader to confront the same moral issues: the defensibility of terrorist resistance to tyranny, the loss of individual privacy in a surveillance society, and the demands thrown up by the interplay of power and knowledge.

This new edition is based on the first English edition text, and has a new chronology and bibliography. 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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Apolitical Russian student Razumov comes home one evening to find a fellow student, Haldin, waiting for him in his rooms. Haldin tells him that he has assassinated a despotic government minister on the street that morning, and has come to Razumov for refuge and help.Conrad is awesome. The unbidden tangle Razumov is suddenly put into forces him into a series of choices that, whichever way he turns, will transform his life forever. Much of the book takes place in Geneva - the original murder having taken place in St Petersburg - and is told by an English teacher living there, who knows but is never a part of the Russian emigre revolutionaries' community, and doesn't quite understand them (his are the 'western eyes'). The book covers some of the same ground as Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, but (in my view) in a more credible way, and in a far more challenging one: whereas Raskolnikov's crime is clearly bad and there is a clear good in opposition to it, Razumov's problem leaves him with no good options. Whatever he does in choosing between Tsarist autocracy and the revolutionary utopians will be bad, and he have to face incredible guilt - but he has to choose one, he cannot do anything else. Conrad's writing is often a bit of tangle to read, but I thought this was easier that some of his other books - and where it is difficult, it works because it is about characters at war with themselves in convoluted ways. Great stuff.

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