"It was I who removed de P- this morning." With these chilling words Victor Haldin shatters the solitary, industrious existence of Razumov, his fellow student at St Petersburg University. Razumov aims to overcome the denial of his noble birth by a brilliant career in the tsarist bureaucracy created by Peter the Great. But in pre-revolutionary Russia Peter's legacy is autocracy tempered by assassination; and Razumov is soon caught in a tragic web with Haldin's trustful sister Natalia in spy-haunted Geneva. Their fateful story is told by an elderly Englishman who loves Natalia but plays his part of a 'dense Westerner' to the end. The central character, Razumov, is the most dislikable anti-hero in all fiction, so it's an amazing feat of empathy by which Conrad brings us to care about his fate. Conrad's genius as a narrator is his ability to place himself and the reader in a realm of detachment, so that every event and every character can be observed from several angles at once. The "unreliable narrator" is child's play for Conrad. The Russia portrayed in “Under Western Eyes” is a land of cynicism and naivete intertwined - hyper-emotionalism and psychological repression in equal measure – omni-competent surveillance and hopeless myopia - ruthless bureaucracy and utter disorganization - a land in short of oxymoronic self-destruction. This is NOT, however, the Russia of Communism! The novel was written in 1911! This is Russia as it existed under the Tsarist autocracy, and everything about it clamors for revolution. It's interesting to compare Conrad's portrayal of the old regime with the nostalgic and idealized version served up by Vladimir Nabokov in his memoir "Speak, Memory." Nabokov wrote far more beautiful sentences, but Conrad saw deeper. The horror for post-Stalinist readers, in Conrad's depiction of the pre-revolutionary state-of-things is that we KNOW that change will not change much, that autocratic, arbitrary repression will be replaced by...more of the same. Conrad wrote two novels aground, away from the sea – this one and The Secret Agent. They are among his best. Under Western Eyes is a book to be read slowly and observantly; the effort will be rewarded.
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Excerpt: ...of active existence for Nathalie Haldin is gone with him. Can you wonder then that she turns with eagerness to the only man her brother mentions in his letters. Your name is a sort of legacy." "What could he have written of me?" he cried, in a low, exasperated tone. "Only a few words. It is not for me to repeat them to you, Mr. Razumov; but you may believe my assertion that these words are forcible enough to make both his mother and his sister believe implicitly in the worth of your judgment and in the truth of anything you may have to say to them. It's impossible for you now to pass them by like strangers." I paused, and for a moment sat listening to the footsteps of the few people passing up and down the broad central walk. While I was speaking his head had sunk upon his breast above his folded arms. He raised it sharply. "Must I go then and lie to that old woman!" It was not anger; it was something else, something more poignant, and not so simple. I was aware of it sympathetically, while I was profoundly concerned at the nature of that exclamation. "Dear me! Won't the truth do, then? I hoped you could have told them something consoling. I am thinking of the poor mother now. Your Russia is a cruel country." He moved a little in his chair. "Yes," I repeated. "I thought you would have had something authentic to tell." The twitching of his lips before he spoke was curious. "What if it is not worth telling?" "Not worthProduct Description:
Under Western Eyes (1911) Razumov, a young orphaned Russian student, is surprised to find Victor Haldin hiding in his apartment – even more so when Haldin confesses he has just committed a political assassination and is on the run from police. Razumov agrees to help Haldin escape but he is panic-stricken. Instead, Rzaumov goes to his university professor, an old English professor of languages, and they plan to turn Haldin over to the chief of police. As the trap is set, Razumov finds himself immersed in the world of secret agents. In Geneva, Haldin’s sister Natalia learns about her brother’s fate through the professor and she anxiously awaits the arrival of Razumov, believing him to be her brother’s friend rather than the man who betrayed him.
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Book Description Penguin Classics, 1990. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX014018287X
Book Description Penguin Classics, 1990. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 014018287X