Conrad professed that he intended to render "the psychology of Russia", a country being driven by a Czarist despotism into anarchy by revolutionaries, "unable to see that all they can effect is merely a change of names". This masterwork, published six years before the Russian Revolution, is a chillingly accurate prophecy of what was to come.
(P)1997 Blackstone Audio Inc.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I'm beginning to think there are absolutely no whimsical novels written about the period between Bloody Sunday and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Written in 1911, Conrad's 'Under Western Eyes' is a lot of things. It is his response to the revolutionary fervor in Russia and Eastern Europe. It was a response to Dostoevsky's novel 'Crime and Punishment' and if previous scholarly works are to be believed, it may have also been a response to his own father who was a famous Russian revolutionary. Lastly, it was a response to the way the West views all of these things. The way the West can't fully grasp the depth of Russian despair and the innate conflicts within Russian ideals and Russian movements.
It isn't my favorite Conrad, but it definitely belongs in the pantheon of Conrad's great novels. It is a novel without heroes but with amazing heroism. Conrad is able to tap into the emotional currents of several unique groups of Russians during one of its most fascinating times.
Anyone interested in the Russian Revolution and the period right near its inception should not skip this book.
"Gripping spy thriller"
A gripping spy thriller that should be better known. Written before the Russian Revolution; but its world of spies, terrorists, secret police, idealists and cynics, and everyone stuck in between their machinations has stayed completely relevant for a hundred years.
A jarring framing device that interrupts the story at intervals, is probably what keeps this out of the top of the Conrad canon. But I find it more enjoyable than The Secret Agent, maybe because of the more relatable protagonist-- the reluctant double-agent Razumov, full of bitter contempt for both sides, tormented by his conscience, and hopelessly between a rock and a hard place.
As for the audio-- the reader makes no attempt to dramatise or provide individual voices for the characters, but reads in a clear, consistent, slightly clinical tone that works well with Conrad's prose but less well with the scenes of high drama and emotion. In the absence of a really great performance this a decent version, neither adding nor detracting from the book.
"Suspicion, suspense and story-telling"
Joseph Conrad provides a beautifully told story through the insights and words (mostly) of a British journalist covering Russia at the turn of the Century. Taking place in St Petersburg and Switzerland we gain insights into revolutionaries, terrorism, plots, state police, betrayal, love, trust, bravery and lots more. The story is told through a range of characters whose lives and relationships connect - some happily, some tensely, some tragically. Beautifully written and narrated it is filled with tension, suspicion and suspense, although elements become more predictable as the story unfolds. There's a neat twist on what is it that makes 'character' and whether the villain himself displays more than some of the other 'revolutionists'. Interesting and enjoyable classic.
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