Joseph Conrad and Contemporary Terrorism

Matthew Feldman on The Secret Agent
Photograph: Joseph Conrad
From Matthew Feldman (Fair Observer):
The modernist author Joseph Conrad "can be read," British philosopher John Gray provocatively argued, "as the first great political novelist of the twenty-first century."

The case set out for this agonistic view in his 2002 "Joseph Conrad: Our Contemporary" departs from Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent, which is based upon an "actual terrorist attempt on the Royal Observatory in 1894, when a French anarchist accidentally blew himself up in Greenwich Park before reaching his target." This is given a "darkly ironic vision" by Conrad, "whereby the symbols of trade and new technology have come under terrorist attack."

Whether or not one agrees with Gray, The Secret Agent surely merits revisiting in the 21st century. In fact, in the three years following the September 11 attacks and their unparalleled murderousness in non-state sponsored, or asymmetric, terrorism — notes Peter Lancelot Mallios, in the revealing collection Conrad in the 21st CenturyThe Secret Agent was "referenced over a hundred times in newspapers, magazines, and online journalistic resources across the world." [Read More]

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