Welcome to the latest of The Mark Steyn Club's Tales for Our Time, in which we serialize some classic fiction I've mentioned in my books and columns over the years. This new audio adventure is The Secret Agent, written by Joseph Conrad and first published in 1907. If you missed the first episode, you can find it here. Founding Member Cindy Szabrowicz enjoyed it:
I just had to drop you a quick note to tell you how much I love the Tales from Our Times Club bonus. Never did I think I would hear a reader eclipse Jim Dale and the Harry Potter series, but you have done it!!
You are an extraordinary reader. I not only love the selections, but your reading is such a treat. You are awesome and this feature alone far exceeds my membership expectations. Well done!!!
Wisconsin (not as exotic as Vanuatu...sadly)
Don't worry, Cindy: we treasure our Wisconsin members as much as our Pacific Islanders. It's a long time since I last ran into dear old Jim Dale, and I'm not sure I'm worthy of that comparison, but I thank you for it.
In tonight's episode, we pick up where we left off - with Mr Verloc en route from his shop to an embassy. The author does not explicitly identify the foreign mission, but we can infer that it is that of the Russian Empire. Born a subject of the Tsar, Joseph Conrad describes the building as being located in "Chesham Square": The real-life Russian Embassy of the time was at Chesham House in Chesham Place. And just as there are fewer degrees of separation than there ought to be between today's terrorists and certain governments, so it goes in this particular diplomatic outpost:
What is the fetish of the hour that all the bourgeoisie recogniseâ€”eh, Mr Verloc?"
No, not religion, nor art nor government, but science. And so that makes science the perfect terrorism target:
Any imbecile that has got an income believes in [science]. He does not know why, but he believes it matters somehow. It is the sacrosanct fetish. All the damned professors are radicals at heart. Let them know that their great panjandrum has got to go too, to make room for the Future of the Proletariat... It will alarm every selfishness of the class which should be impressed. They believe that in some mysterious way science is at the source of their material prosperity. They do. And the absurd ferocity of such a demonstration will affect them more profoundly than the mangling of a whole streetâ€”or theatreâ€”full of their own kind.
To listen to the second episode of The Secret Agent, please click here.
Tales for Our Time is an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more of it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proving very popular, and looks like it'll be around a while. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo view of it, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club earlier this summer, and I'm immensely heartened by all those SteynOnline supporters around the globe who've signed up to be a part of it. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone - all my columns, audio interviews, video content. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way. The point of The Mark Steyn Club is to come up with a way to keep funding some of the more logistically complex and labor-intensive stuff, like my interview with former Aussie PM John Howard, or the live show from Ottawa. So I thank those longtime readers, listeners and viewers who've volunteered to be part of that. Aside from Tales for Our Time, membership does come with a few other benefits:
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and join us for Part Three of The Secret Agent tomorrow.