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Secret agent seeds

The Secret Agent: The Seeds of Evil

Conrad’s interest in shore life and politics continues, but this time the scene is Britain, London in particular. The Secret Agent is different in other ways too. It is less immediately social than Nostromo. Conrad wrote accurately: ‘It had some importance for me as a new departure in genre and is a sustained effort in ironical treatment of a melodramatic subject.’ 1 In Heart of Darkness, he employed an ironic method through a narrator, Marlow, but the irony of The Secret Agent is of a different quality and is deployed without a narrator and, in a way, acts as a substitute for one. In fact, not only Conrad’s fictional mode but his viewpoint too is ironic. The ’subject’ is usually the stuff of melodrama — the life of a double agent, embassy intrigue, a bomb blast, accidental death, suicide and underground revolutionists. Indeed, A. J. Guerard, invoking Graham Greene, considers The Secret Agent an ‘entertainment’. 2 But it seems to me that, whereas Greene deliberately introduces the quality of ‘entertainment’, Conrad does not do so here. The ‘entertainment’ as such in The Secret Agent is incidental and a by-product of profoundly serious intentions on Conrad’s part.

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The fact is you want more scepticism at the very foundation of your work. Scepticism, the tonic of minds, the tonic of life, the agent of truth — the way of art and salvation.

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(Conrad, letter to John Galsworthy, 11 November 1901)

Seed Spy

Kevin Montgomery is a straight-talking plant scientist who specializes in developing new kinds of seeds. Back in 2012, one of his main gigs was helping a big, international company to grow and test new kinds of corn. Everything was going great. until the FBI showed up at his front door.

Today on the show — international economic espionage. Hold on to your ears as we take you on a journey to the center of a corn seed to find why the FBI is using tons of agents, wiretaps, and secret airplanes — all in search of a kernel of truth.

This episode is based on the book, “The Scientist and the Spy” written by Mara Hvistendahl.

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