The Secret Agent
A conversation with James Corbett - 20th March 2013
In our latest conversation James and I took a sideways look at Joseph Conrad's 1907 novel The Secret Agent, which fictionalises the real story of Martial Bourdin. Bourdin officially became Britain's first suicide bomber in February 1894 when a bomb he was carrying exploded in the park near the Royal Greenwich Observatory. However, Bourdin categorically did not commit suicide and the anarchist movement he was involved with as well as the theories spawned by his death provide a fascinating context for analysing Conrad's novel.
James and I discussed how the anarchist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was riddled with spies - indeed, Bourdin's brother-in-law was a police informant, leading to the theory that he had somehow set up Bourdin with the bomb. This is the version of events Conrad explored in his novel, and in broadly the same story portrayed in Hitchcock's film adaptation of The Secret Agent in Sabotage. We also discussed the legacy of Conrad's novel
This is a very broad and multi-dimensional conversation that I think makes for extremely interesting listening because there is certainly something in there for any student of literature, history, terrorism and spies.