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The secret agent & Joseph Conrad in general

(23 Posts)
Maria2007 Sat 22-Aug-09 13:13:42

We recently read 'The secret agent' by Joseph Conrad for our book group. Just coincidentally (!!!.....not!) almost everyone decided they couldn't make it at the last minute. I think the book proved too much or too hard or too boring or too SOMETHING for most of us. From what I understand (I wasn't there) only 3-4 people attended in the end out of 16 of us.

So just wanted to ask any of you wise souls out there. Is Joseph Conrad really awful & overrated (as I think he is) or is it just me?

BlueKangerooWonders Sat 22-Aug-09 20:18:38

Had to read the Secret Agent for O? A? level. Would never touch another Conrad book! Had it been my book club, I too would have made my excuses!

LightningBolt Sat 22-Aug-09 20:21:32

Oh I hated Conrad when I did it for GCSE.

Did "Heart of Darkness" and found it terribly depressing.

Then we did Dickens.

Wanted to shoot self after that.

janeite Sat 22-Aug-09 20:36:13

Tis awful.

janeite Sat 22-Aug-09 20:36:57

And allegedly Conrad used to flick rolled up balls of bread at his children - maybe to relieve the tedium of his own novels methinks!

foreverchanges Sat 22-Aug-09 20:37:44

loved heart of darkness /apocalypse now is one of my favorite films also

foreverchanges Sat 22-Aug-09 20:41:51

'the horror' probab wouldnt have read it either if it hadnt been a set text for uni but i enjoyed (some pieces of writing in it) reading it for enjoyment i would have prob put it down at 3rd page

Maria2007 Sat 22-Aug-09 20:47:36

he flicked rolled up balls of bread at his children??!! Oh my god... the things we learn on MN!!

lalalonglegs Sat 22-Aug-09 21:25:57

Heart of Darkness is a work of genuis. The Secret Agent is not.

Ewe Sat 22-Aug-09 21:31:30

I found it so hard to get in to, I have only ever given up on one other book in my life (it was an awful freebie with a magazine) as I hate leaving a book unfinished but this one will stay that way forever.

I was on holiday and really tried with it but it was so grim and hard and not enjoyable at all. I was so glad to realise I wasn't the only one!

stickylittlefingers Sat 22-Aug-09 21:42:46

second heart of darkness being a work of genius. One of those books that sits in your brain for ever afterwards, because his descriptions are so amazing and that crawling sense of horror. I've not read the Secret Agent tho.

Conrad was an extraordinary man (bread flicking nws!) He learnt English as his third language and became one of the foremost novelists in the language. I find that pretty cool!!

ahundredtimes Sat 22-Aug-09 21:45:02

I read it ages ago - and Heart of Darkness then too I think, and another one? Might need to go check - and I found it tough to start with but then I really, really liked it and thought it was quite alarming and interesting, and dark too. I liked the outsiderness of it I think. I found it quite unusual (I think, trying to remember) I definitely found it unusual.

I suppose he's challenging to read (is he?) which doesn't make him good or bad as such - it just depends on whether you are up for the challenge? I do see why book club might all have thought, 'oh gawd' and not got through it.

I liked the paranoia and the darkness, and I suppose all that anarchist malarky. I think everyone goes on about it now because it is about terrorism - and that is our current hot subject, but it doesn't make it an easier read really.

I think he's a good and interesting writer, but I also see why he might not thrill the book club etc.

janeite Sat 22-Aug-09 21:50:58

Not challenging to read - he just didn't excite me at all. Must admit it was when I was 18 - worth trying again?

ahundredtimes Sat 22-Aug-09 21:55:38

I liked it v. much. I don't know if you would. It's not one that would trip off my tongue as a recommendation. grin I think it is a dense book - and I didn't mean challenging in a bad way - and if the criteria is to find a book 'enjoyable' I'm not sure he would fit that criteria. ifyswim.

v. good on London though

Ewe Sat 22-Aug-09 22:03:34

I don't think it helped that I was on holiday either, I couldn't dedicate time to it so I was reading a few pages here and there which isn't ideal. Think it might have been me more than the book!

Would like to read Heart of Darkness though, haven't written him off as an author.

janeite Sat 22-Aug-09 22:05:12

Might have another go with Heart Of Darkness one day - don't think I could cope with The Secret Agent again.

Now - off to throw some bread pellets at the children.

ahundredtimes Sat 22-Aug-09 22:08:19

Bit of both probably! I wouldn't like to have read it on holiday either Ewe.

I think you need to be in a large overcoat (preferably a slightly damp one) and sitting on a London park bench on a wet october afternoon, under a slightly hissing street lamp and surrounded by russians in equally damp coats, and to have a part of you quite prepared to perform an act of social violence. Then you'll love it. smile

Nighbynight Sat 22-Aug-09 22:22:44

drat, I have just started the Secret Agent. I liked the first few pages. Maybe will try Heart of Darkness instead.

ahundredtimes Sat 22-Aug-09 22:25:43

Noooo NN read on!

Nighbynight Sat 22-Aug-09 22:29:49


Badgermoose Mon 24-Aug-09 13:32:00

100x, aaah, so that's what was missing as I ploughed my way through the seemingly endless hours of tedium it took me to read it. Perhaps the drizzle and the discomfort of the bench would have helped me stay awake too

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 24-Aug-09 13:37:22

I did Nostromo for A level and loved it. Must reread at some stage.

Maria2007 Mon 24-Aug-09 18:18:05

Ok after reading this thread I'm prepared to not completely delete Joseph Conrad from my 'to read' authors. But I still need convincing...

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