In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle revisits one of Joseph Conrad’s less celebrated masterpieces
The narrative style of Joseph Conrad’s 1911 novel Under Western Eyes is unusual. The narrator is not quite an omniscient third-person narrator (certainly, there is much he doesn’t know, as he keeps reminding us); nor is he a first-person narrator recounting things from his perspective (he wasn’t there any more than we were); nor is he merely the frame device for introducing the ‘found’ text of the protagonist Razumov’s account of the events, since he insists on mediating throughout, and won’t merely hand over the account of what happened fully to us. Nor does Razumov recount the events of the novel to us in the form of a verbal tale, as Marlow does with Conrad’s earlier novella, Heart of Darkness (1899). In short, Under Western Eyes has an odd narrative premise.