We will read two novels by Joseph Conrad, and see if these novels, written a hundred years ago, speak to the circumstances of the 21st century. The two Conrad novels are The Secret Agent
(1907) and Under Western Eyes
(1911). The first is a dark, ironic tale of anarchists working for the Russian Embassy in London. The use of agents provocateurs was suggested by Conrad’s friend Ford Madox Ford, who reminded him of a forgotten news item: In 1894 an anarchist, Martial Bourdin, blew himself up while trying to bomb the Greenwich Observatory. Conrad set this tale in 1896, the year he became a naturalized British subject.
Under Western Eyes
takes place in St. Petersburg and Geneva during the 1904 Russian Revolution. Although less well known than Lord Jim
, with which it shares the subject of betrayal, critics consider this novel among Conrad’s greatest. Here it is the betrayal to the Czar’s police of an idealistic, active, and revolutionary student who has just tossed a bomb into the carriage of the Minister of the Interior and killed him. This tale is prescient, given the use of Russian political and police abuse of power to this day. Class Limit: 20
Instructor Geoffrey Robinson
earned his B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from Yale University. He has taught in secondary schools in Connecticut; at Maarif College in Samsun, Turkey; and at the Penobscot Language School in Rockland, Maine. Geoffrey has also spent 25 years as a dealer in paintings, specializing in 19th- and 20th-century European and American art.