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Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...

The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad With [a:G.K. Chesterton|7014283|G.K. Chesterton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1365860649p2/7014283.jpg]'s [b:The Man Who Was Thursday|9114152|The Man Who Was Thursday A Nightmare|G.K. Chesterton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1311646856s/9114152.jpg|195447] sitting on my to-read list for a while now it seemed like a happy coincidence when [a:Will Self|13794|Will Self|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1207342063p2/13794.jpg] chose it as his favourite cultural work on an episode of Front Row recently. He'd recently reread the novel and this one, [a:Joseph Conrad|3345|Joseph Conrad|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1198538984p2/3345.jpg]'s [b:The Secret Agent|86658|The Secret Agent|Joseph Conrad|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1171075859s/86658.jpg|3876535], back to back. Never one to walk away from a reading challenge, and having a copy of The Secret Agent already on my Kindle, I thought I'd do the same.

The secret agent is Mr Adolf Verloc, an odd little man who runs a porno and stationary shop in London with his wife and her brother and mother. He doesn't seem a particularly effective secret agent, reporting regularly back to his paymasters with titbits of information from his little gang of anarchist friends. He's not a particularly effective secret agent because his friends aren't particularly successful anarchists – one, nicknamed 'The Terrorist', has never engaged in any terrorism. Instead of engaging in active anarchism, they sit around talking about it. Consequently, Mr Verloc's information doesn't seem to be impressing his new master, Mr Vladimir, any more. If he wants to keep on getting paid, he's going to have to start causing the intelligence rather than just reporting it. Direct action is called for. Something to stir up London before a big conference in Milan.

Based on actual events, there was an actual (and also failed) bomb attempt against the Greenwich Observatory in 1894 – 13 years before Conrad published this novel. Many of the details appear to be the same, even down to the bungled attempt by the anarchist. I enjoyed this much more than the previous Conrad I read, [b:Heart of Darkness|6233281|Heart of Darkness |Joseph Conrad|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327956388s/6233281.jpg|2877220], but not as much as The Man Who Was Thursday which I thought much more amusing and well put together.