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Main page » Fiction literature » Under Western Eyes (Penguin Classics)

Under Western Eyes (Penguin Classics)


his is what one of the readers wrote about this book:

The Greatest Russian Novel... of the 20th Century written in English by a Pole!

Honestly, you could remove any and all of the prepositional qualifiers from that assertion, and I'd still be willing to defend it. Under Western Eyes is a superb novel in every way - in emotional impact, in intelligence, and in narrative art - and it is very specifically a Russian novel as well as a novel about Russia. Anecdotes suggest that Conrad wrote it in response to his reading of Dostoevsky; if so, he exceeded his model in dazzling narrative acrobatics and in intelligence.

The central character, Razumov, is the most dislikable anti-hero in all fiction, so it's an amazing feat of empathy by which Conrad brings us to care about his fate. Conrad's genius as a narrator is his ability to place himself and the reader in a realm of detachment, so that every event and every character can be observed from several angles at once. The "unreliable narrator" is child's play for Conrad. I don't want to spoil any of the prismatic effect of Conrad's narrative structure by telling any more of the tale of Under Western Eyes, but I will mention that the title is not insignificant.

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Tags: Western, Under, Conrad, every, novel