Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Under Western Eyes, 69/81, 2nd round

Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad, reread category

Razumov is a loner, studying at the university and working hard. He is interrupted one day by another student, Victor Haldin, who confesses to the assassination of a government official just that day. Razumov realizes he must help Haldin, but he doesn't care about politics, only about the consequences if his involvement gets out.

Despite setting out to help Haldin, when things get complicated Razumov informs on him. Haldin is arrested and executed. (This may sound like a spoiler, but it takes place early in the book and is described on the back cover.)

When I started reading this book, I couldn't remember the story at all. I know I read it in college, but nothing that I was reading stood out to me. I think it's because I was confusing it with The Secret Agent, which is also about anarchists and the coming revolution.

Conrad uses this story to talk a lot about Russians and their psychology and how Westerners can never understand them. He also skips around in the story, going back several months, then jumping back ahead. It's confusing, and I don't think it works.

The story is told as if taken from Razumov's diary. The person telling the story is an English teacher he meets much later in the book.

I'm not sure I would recommend this one. Like I said, the timeline is rather confused. I felt like Conrad had an agenda in writing this book, and it got in the way of the story. I don't think I will read this one again.

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