The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale
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The Secret Agent" is considered to be one of Joseph Conrad's finest works and was ranked the 46th best novel of the 20th century by the Modern Library. Set in London at the end of the nineteenth century, it follows the life of Mr. Verloc, a secret agent who is also the proprietor of a small shop that sells, “photographs of more or less undressed dancing girls” and “a few books, with titles hinting at impropriety.“ Verloc’s friends, a group of anarchists, assign him the task of destroying the Greenwich Observatory, but when things go awry, Verloc must deal with the terrible consequences of his actions. As current now, as it was a century ago, Conrad weaves a chilling tale of espionage, exploitation and terrorism that is all too present in our own time.
“I daresay you have the social revolutionary jargon by heart well enough,” he said, contemptuously. “Vox et.... You haven’t ever studied Latin—have you?” “No,” growled Mr. Verloc. “You did not expect me to know it. I belong to the million. Who knows Latin? Only a few hundred imbeciles who aren’t fit to take care of themselves.” For some thirty seconds longer Mr. Vladimir studied in the mirror the fleshy profile, the gross bulk, of the man behind him. And at the same time he had the advantage
downstairs. What on earth is he doing there? Mr. Verloc asked himself. What’s the meaning of these antics? He looked dubiously at his brother-in-law, but he did not ask him for information. Mr. Verloc’s intercourse with Stevie was limited to the casual mutter of a morning, after breakfast, “My boots,” and even that was more a communication at large of a need than a direct order or request. Mr. Verloc perceived with some surprise that he did not know really what to say to Stevie. He stood still
the direction of the surface currents, had been welcomed in that house, listened to, penetrated, understood, appraised, for her own edification. In her own words, she liked to watch what the world was coming to. And as she had a practical mind her judgment of men and things, though based on special prejudices, was seldom totally wrong, and almost never wrong-headed. Her drawing-room was probably the only place in the wide world where an Assistant Commissioner of Police could meet a convict
unmistakable feeling. Other voices, as if glad of the opening, murmured hasty compassion. “Quite startling,” “Monstrous,” “Most painful to see.” The lank man, with the eyeglass on a broad ribbon, pronounced mincingly the word “Grotesque,” whose justness was appreciated by those standing near him. They smiled at each other. The Assistant Commissioner had expressed no opinion either then or later, his position making it impossible for him to ventilate any independent view of a ticket-of-leave
who I am?” he said. Mrs. Verloc glanced over her shoulder. Chief Inspector Heat was amazed at her coolness. “Come! You know I am in the police,” he said, sharply. “I don’t trouble my head much about it,” Mrs. Verloc remarked, returning to the ranging of her boxes. “My name is Heat. Chief Inspector Heat of the Special Crimes section.” Mrs. Verloc adjusted nicely in its place a small cardboard box, and turning round, faced him again, heavy-eyed, with idle hands hanging down. A silence reigned