A terror tale with historical clout
The inspiration for Conrad’s novel was taken from a failed plot to bomb the same London target, the Greenwich Observatory, in 1894. And, as Will Self notes in an introduction of depth and subtlety, Conrad wrote his novel against the backdrop of an increasingly direct-action suffragette movement, so the city existed in a state of perpetual alert. As well as analysing the plot, Self is unapologetic in his dissection of Conrad’s use of the English language and ‘the text’s stylistic oddity’. Writing in his third language, Conrad’s turn of phrase is discernibly idiosyncratic and Self concludes that the sum of the book must therefore work harder for the credibility of its component parts.
‘To read Conrad … is to find oneself, while apparently making clear headway, in fact, with all sails trimmed, beating hard against the wind’
There is never any doubt that Self is discussing one of the great works of a truly talented storyteller; a prescient thriller that delves deep into the mind-set of fanaticism.