Surrealpolitik: The Secret Agent

Author: Joseph Conrad

New Jersey: J.P. Piper Books (2015, first published in 1907)

Quick Summary

An anarchist who also serves as an informant to the Embassy is tasked with blowing up a building in order to stimulate the outrage needed for a thoroughgoing crackdown on civil liberties. This is 1907! A novel about a false flag attack (which goes wrong).


There are 8 quotes currently associated with this book.

"What is desired," said the man of papers, "is the occurrence of something definite which should stimulate their vigilance. That is within your province -- is it not so?" (page 12)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Truth & Real, Terror]
"The vigilance of the police -- and the severity of the magistrates. The general leniency of the judicial procedure here, and the utter absence of all repressive measures, are a scandal to Europe. What is wished for just now is the accentuation of the unrest..." (page 12)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Truth & Real, Terror]
"What we want is to administer a tonic to the Conference in Milan," he said airily. "Its deliberations upon international action for the suppression of political crime don't seem to get anywhere. England lags. This country is absurd with its sentimental regard for individual liberty." (page 20)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Terror]
"England must be brought into line...I suppose you agree that the middle classes are stupid?...They have no imagination. They are blinded by an idiotic vanity. What they want just now is a jolly good scare. This is the psychological moment to set your friends to work. I have had you called here to develop to you my idea." (page 20)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Terror]
"A series of outrages," Mr. Vladimir continued calmly, "executed here in this country; not only planned here -- that would not do -- they would not mind. Your friends could set half the Continent on fire without influencing the public opinion here in favour of a universal repressive legislation. They will not look outside their backyard here." (page 21)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Truth & Real, Fascism, Terror]
"But what is one to say to an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable; in fact, mad? Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes...The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression, it would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. But that is impossible." (page 23)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Terror, Madness]
"No, Sir Ethelred. In principle, I should lay it down that the existence of secret agents should not be tolerated, as tending to augment the positive dangers of the evil against which they are used. That the spy will fabricate his information is a mere commonplace. But in the sphere of political and revolutionary action, relying partly on violence, the professional spy has every facility to fabricate the very facts themselves, and will spread the double evil of emulation in one direction, and of panic, hasty legislation, unreflecting hate, on the other. However, this is an imperfect world -- " [The Assistant Commissioner to the Secretary of State] (page 92)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Terror, Conspiracy]
"I mean to say, first, that there's but poor comfort in being able to declare that any given act of violence -- damaging property or destroying life -- is not the work of anarchism at all, but of something else altogether -- some species of authorized scoundrelism. This, I fancy, is much more frequent than we suppose...[T]he existence of these spies amongst the revolutionary groups which we are reproached for harboring here, does away with all certitude." (page 93)
Tags: [Politics & Novels, Truth & Real, Terror, Lead Quote Candidate, Conspiracy]