Joseph Conrad was a remarkable and unique phenomenon in British literature. Born in Poland in 1857, he worked as a merchant seaman before turning his hand to writing novels in English.
Heart of Darkness, filmed by Francis Ford Coppola as Apocalypse Now!, Nostromo (adopted as the name of the spacecraft in the film Alien), Lord Jim and above all The Secret Agent, converted to a film by Alfred Hitchcock, penetrate to the heart of evil and the evil in the human heart.
The Secret Agent (1907) is a shattering exposé of the callous cast of mind behind the wave of terrorist attacks which swept Europe and America between 1892 and 1901. Its lessons are of extraordinary relevance to the al Qaeda outrages which began with 9/11 in New York and continue now in Madrid and London. As Graham Stewart, The Times historian, who provides a new introduction to this volume, points out — The Secret Agent had its germ in an actual attempt made in 1894 to blow up the Greenwich Observatory.
And the incorruptible Professor walked, too, averting his eyes from the odious multitude of mankind. He had no future. He disdained it. He was a force. His thoughts caressed the images of ruin and destruction. He walked frail, insignificant, shabby, miserable - and terrible in the simplicity of his idea calling madness and despair to the regeneration of the world. Nobody looked at him. He passed on unsuspected and deadly, like a pest in the street full of men.