Marching to the Modernist

Modernist Lit ButtonFor a Modern March hosted by A Literary Odyssey, I’m reading The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad followed by Prufrock and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot. I was excited to read a spy novel after several coming-of-age stories, but had to laugh at this “official” synopsis  for The Secret Agent on the Kobobooks website:

Joseph Conrads 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, is a difficult little book. Its story is difficult and its characters are largely unpleasant. By difficult and unpleasant, I dont mean to say the novel isnt any good. Far from it. These terms I mean to denote the impenetrability of motive, of sense. The story of a group of anarchists, police, and a family caught in the middle in late Victorian England, The Secret Agent is far from Conrads subtitle, A Simple Tale. The novel, for me, is about hatred, mistrust, and breakdowns in communication.

Who wrote this? A disgruntled Kobo employee who thinks anything preceding the Spice Girls is “Victorian”? And please use some apostrophes, man!

Joseph Conrad is celebrated as an influential author of modernist literature. Since English was not his first or second language, Mr. Conrad’s large body of English work is considered exceptional for its stylish prose, memorable anti-heroic characters, and for depicting the human condition and the struggle to make sense of a changing world. A sailor in the French and British navies for many years, I liked the description of Mr. Conrad as “always at heart a writer who sailed, rather than a sailor who wrote”.

It looks like The Secret Agent really will be more political and less 007, but thrilling all the same.

Prufrock will be my first intentional attempt to read and understand poetry — EVER. But T.S. Eliot has a fascinating background as I wrote about in my last post:

During his time, Mr. Eliot was considered the most important English-language poet of the 20th century and one of the many authors whose writing is considered to have captured the spirit of the times. Mr. Eliot believed that poetry should be complex to reflect the complexities of a post-war world. In 1948, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work. Prufrock contains the famous poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock which is considered a masterpiece of the modernist movement.

Prufrock I’m saving for after my March family vacation, so I can try really really hard to understand what I’m reading. According to a cheat sheet I recently read, poetry is meant to be read out loud to be fully understood. Hmm … where the heck am I going to do this? I usually read on the train and blog in the middle of the night while babes are sleeping. To be continued …


3 comments on “Marching to the Modernist

  1. Julie
    February 28, 2013

    Personally I think hearing someone read poetry on the train would be preferable to the usual crap we’re forced to listen to!


    • ebookclassics
      February 28, 2013

      Yes! I completely agree, but it shouldn’t be me reading (awkward!). Maybe I could play the poem on my phone.


  2. ebookclassics
    February 28, 2013

    I was wrong! The story is set during the Victorian era.


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