About the Book"The Secret Agent is one of Conrad's two supreme masterpieces, one of the two questionable classics of the first order that he added to the English novel, and in its own way, it is like Nostromo in the subtle and triumphant complexity of its art" – F.R. Leavis.
An actual attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory in 1894 is taken by Conrad as the basis of the central action in the novel. Verloc, who is secretly working for the police and a foreign power' (Russia) while ostensibly a member of an anarchist group in Soho, is required by his masters to discredit the anarchist group in some spectacular way. He persuades his wife's simpleton brother, Stevie, to plant a bomb - provided by the novel's most terrifying figure, 'The Professor'– at the Greenwich Observatory. But the plan goes horribly wrong and the repercussions are dramatically different from those that Verloc intended. The novel grotesquely mirrors the world of law and order, fatuous civil servants and corrupt policemen in a squalid terrorist landscape. Repulsive characters and amoral caricatures collaborate to form a black satire on English society, a satire sharpened into focus with a portrait of family life.About the Author/sJoseph Conrad (originally Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski) was born in Russian-dominated Ukraine in 1857. His parents were punished by the Russians for their Polish nationalist activities and both died while Conrad was still a child. Conrad grew under the care of his uncle, Thaddeus Bobrowski, who was to be a continuing influence on his life. From an early age he longed to go to sea and in 1874 he travelled to Marseilles where he joined the merchant marine as an apprentice. His career as a sailor provided much of the material for his writing. In 1886 he became a British subject and a master mariner. In 1894, after twenty years at sea, he settled in England and devoted himself to writing.
In 1895 Conrad married Jessie George, by whom he was to have two sons, and his novel Almayer’s Folly appeared in the same year. The long subsequent series of novels, tales, essays and reminiscences established Conrad in the front rank of creative writers. Among his many other books are An Outcast of the Islands (1896), The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), Typhoon (1902), Youth (1902), Nostromo (1904), The Mirror of the Sea (1906), The Secret Agent (1907), Under Western Eyes (1911), Chance (1913), Victory (1915), The Shadow Line (1917), The Rescue (1920) and The Rover (1923). He also collaborated with Ford Madox Ford on two books, The Inheritors (1901) and Romance (1903). His autobiography, A Personal Record, appeared in book form in 1912 and his unfinished novel Suspense was published in 1925. He died in 1924 at his home near Canterbury.
Despite the immediate critical recognition that novels of Conrad received in his lifetime, his major novels did not sell, and he lived in relative poverty until the commercial success of Chance (1913) secured for him a wider public and an assured income. In 1923 he visited America, with great acclaim, and was offered a knighthood (which he declined). Since then his reputation has steadily grown and now he is recognised as a writer who revolutionized the English novel and was arguably the most important single innovator of the twentieth century.