Literary Precedents for The Secret Agent

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One of the major influences on Conrad's political fiction has generally been considered to be Dostoevsky's novels, especially The Possessed (also published as The Devils, 1 872; see separate entry) with its satirical treatment of Russian radicals.

Whereas Dostoevsky, however, tended to view anarchists and revolutionaries as virtually demonic in their nature and behavior, this Conrad novel treats them as less dangerous and somewhat more ineffectual and self-destructive than Dostoevsky's radicals. Martin SeymourSmith also concludes in his 1984 "Introduction" to the Penguin edition of the novel that Conrad's reading of the writings of revolutionaries and anarchists, especially Ivan Bakunin—as well as newspaper accounts of the 1886 attempt to blow up the Greenwich Observatory —-was a strong influence.

Other literary influences on Conrad were nearer at hand. Frederick Karl was one of the first to note, in A Reader's Guide to Joseph Conrad (1960), that Conrad's London owes much to the...

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This section contains 423 words
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