Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Secret Agent

After a day spent unprofitably (playing computer games, eating ice cream and buying DVDs with Jason Statham in them*), I went to Happy Valley to have my feet massaged and to read Joseph Conrad.
His spare time he occupied by drawing circles with compass and pencil on a piece of paper. He applied himself to that pastime with great industry, with his elbows spread out and bowed low over the kitchen table. **
I haven't read The Secret Agent for some time, but I remember it being very funny, and thus far it hasn't disappointed upon a rereading. I'd forgotten how many euphemisms for contraceptives Conrad had to fit into the first few pages though.

When I first read it (probably around 2007, on the centenary of its publication) I was struck by how much of it seemed to make sense in a contemporary setting: substitute anarchists for the supposed army of Islamic fundamentalists that were going to dispose of Western civilisation, keep the remaining imbeciles that Conrad populated the novel with, and you'd be done.

Was I being impressionable and following a fashionable opinion? Or will I find in two hundred pages that we've made no progress in a hundred years?

Of course, a book as cheery as this needs to be shared; I'll be reading it as a bedtime story to my girlfriend until she brains me with the Le Creuset saucepan for giving her strange dreams about the Professor. It's a risk I have to take, for the good of literature, or something.

* With the title of the film mispelt inconsistently: I'm not sure if I'll be watching Rogue Assassin or Rouge Assassin later on.
** Probably better than spending an hour driving simulated cars through computer generated landscapes, though. At least you'd have a selection of nicely-drawn circles at the end of it.


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