By Joseph Conrad, 1911
Everyman’s Library, London
Conrad speaks of crime and punishment, guilt and atonement. In the same way that Virginia Wolf was the English master of describing the feelings of her heroines in times of tranquility and reflection, none of the 20th century’s English writers could equal Conrad’s masterful descriptions of the violent struggle happening inside the minds of his novels’ heroes.
Most of the stories(the crimes, the double-agent plot, the fights inside the revolutionaries’ circles), had been heard by Conrad while frequenting friends’ houses or had been well covered by the press. And Razumov, the main character of Under Western Eyes, has been built–as Jocelyn Baines explains in her definitive biography of our novelist–facing Dostoyevsky’s creatures.
However, the struggle that Razumov faces is not only as intense as the one of Raskolnikov’s, but it also goes farther. It becomes a general representation of the character of a nation.
Under Western Eyes becomes Conrad’s best attempt to portray for his English readers the psychology of Russia; it is also his attempt to exceed the talent of Dostoyevsky, whom he never liked.