This classic precursor to the modern-day spy novel was recently in headlines when it was revealed that the Unabomber drew considerable inspiration from its prophetic portrait of terrorism. Written in 1907 and set in Edwardian London, The Secret Agent resonates just as strongly in today's world, where a handful of fanatics can still play mad politics and victimize the innocent.
Mr. Verloc keeps a shop in London's Soho, where he lives with his wife, Winnie; her infirm mother; and her idiot brother, Stevie. When Verloc is reluctantly involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory, things go disastrously wrong.
The brooding atmosphere of conspiracy, powerful characters, and tragic plot of The Secret Agent are brilliantly captured in this audio production.
Public Domain (P)1996 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"One of Conrad's supreme masterpieces...one of the unquestioned classics of the first order that he added to the English novel." (F. R. Leavis)
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Let's just get this out in the open at the start of my brief review. I love Joseph Conrad. How can you not love a guy that can write circles around 90 percent of writers, and 99.9% of English speakers in his 3rd language. His craft is equaled only by his message. He was the proto-Nabokov. OK, so that is out of the way, you understand my bias.
The Secret Agent is novel of madness in a time of despair. At once both a harsh and scathing critique of anarchism and terrorism. Conrad produced a bomb throwing novel about the throwing of bombs, or as better said by Patrick Reilly the Secret Agent is "a terrorist text as well as a text about terrorism."
Geoffry Howard's narration was fine: nothing to complain or write home about. Solid work.
[Please do not post this review if the audio file will be corrected. Thanks!]
"The Secret Agent," by Joseph Conrad. Blackstone Audiobooks. Format 4 file dated 23 April, 2009.
I can't comment fairly on the performance or story; this "review" is intended to communicate that Audible's file for the Blackstone Audio edition of Conrad's "The Secret Agent" has glitches and, overall, sounds very bad (and I'm no audiophile).
Nearly half of Chapter 10 is missing: The audio cuts out at, "...He knew he would be welcomed there. On entering the smaller of the--" and continues with, "Chapter Eleven..."
The very end of chapter 12 is also missing: The audio cuts out at, "...Its attitude of repose was so home-like and familiar--" and continues with, "Chapter Twelve..." (This was particularly annoying as it comes at what is possibly the most suspenseful moment in the book, the plot of which deals with time-bombs. The previous paragraph reads, "Mrs. Verloc cared nothing for time, and the ticking went on. She concluded it could not be the clock, and her sullen gaze moved along the walls, wavered, and became vague, while she strained her hearing to locate the sound. Tic, tic, tic." You won't find out what the ticking was in Audible's version!)
There are several other instances where it sounds as if the audio drops out for a moment. As far as I'm aware these occurred at the end of sentences, and I don't know if anything is actually missing (apart from the tail-end of a word).
Hopefully the good folks at Audible can and will correct this.
Overall, the sound quality is extremely poor and has a "hollow" sound to it as if it were subjected to extremely heavy-handed noise/tape hiss removal. This could explain the momentary drop-outs: quieter details of the narrator's speech may have been filtered out along with some noise/hiss. It doesn't seem to be merely the [expected] result of compressing about 8 1/2 hours of audio into 119 megabytes. Not having heard the original Blackstone audio, though, I can't be sure.
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