The story centers around Adolph Verloc, owner of a Soho bookshop and ostensibly a member of a group of home-grown anarchists, but actually in the pay of a foreign government. Verloc's quiescent wife, Winnie, maintains their stable household in which she tries to provide for her retarded brother and her aging mother under the thinly disguised irritability of her husband. The anarchist collective consists of "Doctor" Ossipan, who lives off his romantic attachments to women barely able to take care of themselves; "The Professor", an explosives expert who is so insecure that he is perpetually wired with a detonator in case he is threatened by police capture; and Michaelis, a corpulent writer composing an autobiography after a mitigated sentence in prison.
This production includes a brilliant introduction by Thomas Korzeniowski, a distant relative of Conrad (whose real Polish name was Josef Konrad Korzeniowski). It is not only a fitting tribute to his renowned predecessor, but a very insightful look into the man and his work.
© and (P)2007 Audio Connoisseur
The reader manages to draw out the humorous undertone in Conrad's rich prose. As a result, it is not the story itself that kept me involved in this book, so much as the narration of the story. Conrad's understanding of the nature and tactics of terrorism is thoroughly modern, and his characterizations seem very real. A good listen.
Having read, of course, Heart of Darkness and Secret Sharer, and being interested in early detective fiction, I decided to listen to this novel. The narrator was fine enough, and I forced myself to take a deep breath and relax into the leisurely pace of the narrative. It was well worthwhile. Listening in this way reminded me of the vast amounts of leisure time novel readers used to have and I let myself savor Conrad's remarkable prose. By the time the plot thickened (be patient, it does thicken), I was hooked.
A less ponderous presentation
I am less likely to purchase other works by Conrad or by this presenter.
The performance is quite possibly appropriate to the dated and dour nature of the work. Some levity would have been appreciated. Some intonation was too forced.
Conrad, whose most famous books were about seafaring, wrote this lesser known work around 1907 about a man who serves as a spy for a foreign country in the Edwardian era. He is provoked by his employer into committing a terrorist act in order, supposedly, to cause the British police to clamp down on anarchists and communists. But the bombing goes awry and fails to produce the desired result. The story is a thoughtful portrait of a selfish man and the self-centered maneuverings of those around him: the police, the Minister in the government, and the foreign ambassador. Yet the story has resonance for modern times and provides insight into the minds of modern suicide bombers and terrorists.
This is a great production of Conrad's Secret Agent by Audio Connoisseur, Charlton Griffin narrating. It includes an introduction by a living relative of the author.
The main disappointment with this audiobook is the reading. I'm afraid I found Charlton Griffin's voice almost unbearable. I'm not sure whether he's American pretending to sound English or whether there's some other explanation, but the reading spoiled the book for me. The book is also very dated. The best parts were the descriptions of the narrow, depressing life lived by the chief character's wife.
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