The Little Man's Revenge

The Secret Agent, published in 1907, is about a shadowy anarchist, Adolf Verloc, who owns a shop selling low-end goods in a grimy, working class district of London.

Issue: Fall 2001

In 1884, anarchists tried to blow up the Greenwich Royal Observatory outside London, then the symbol of modern scientific thought on which Britain's world empire was based. The novelist Joseph Conrad found the act "a blood-stained inanity of so fatuous a kind that it was impossible to fathom its origin by any reasonable or even unreasonable process of thought." He could not grasp why anyone would blow himself to bits "for nothing even remotely resembling an idea." Conrad, like so many writers, discovered the answer to his question by a writing a book.

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