Dan Sandman

27: Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad

In Books, Fiction, Spy on 01/07/2016 at 12:00 pm

Under Western Eyes by Joseph ConradThe setting is tsarist Russia on the cusp of revolution. A bomb is successfully hurled at a fanatical Minister of State. The assassin bursts into the apartment of a fellow student. What follows is an enthralling tale involving Russian emigrates and a government spy.

Conrad chooses an English narrator for his study of cynicism under autocratic leadership. The narrator is teaching English in Geneva when he gets tangled up in the case. Conrad’s choice of narrator gives the narrative its emotionally detached character, which we do not always see in Conrad’s major novels. As a result, readers are ask to observe the characters’ complex moral dilemmas from a Western perspective.

In an author’s note, written some years after publication (Under Western Eyes was published 1911), Conrad admits that the novel was not well received in England at first. It did however do rather better in Russia where the novel is still admired. I would personally recommend it to any friend interested in English Literature and would place it historically as an excellent example of early Modernism. But there is also much here for the general reader to enjoy in terms of character and plot.

Masterfully worked.

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