Tag Archives: Joseph Conrad

Espionage and Surveillance State in the Elizabethan Age

“We think of the surveillance state as a modern development, something conjured up by novels such as Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent or George Orwell’s 1984, or by real-life stories of Stalin’s Soviet Union or Hitler’s Germany. But spying is one of the world’s oldest professions, as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible attest. Well before the 20th century, many states were doing all they could to monitor their citizens’ activities as closely and comprehensively as possible.

England in particular has a long history of spying on its own people. It is no accident that in Hamlet, Shakespeare portrays the Danish government specializing in espionage and double-dealing. In Act 2, scene 1, the court councilor Polonius teaches a henchman how to spy on Polonius’ own son, Laertes, in Paris, instructing him “by indirections find directions out.” Moving as he did in court circles, Shakespeare was evidently familiar with intelligence operations in Elizabethan England, some of which involved several of his famous contemporaries—certainly Francis Bacon and possibly Christopher Marlowe. Under such spymasters as Lord Burghley and Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s court pioneered many of the techniques and practices we associate with international espionage to this day, including code-breaking and the use of double and even triple agents.”

More: http://reason.com/archives/2012/11/24/the-elizabethan-cia

Jack King “A new King of thrillers”: http://www.SpyWriter.com

Writers and dogs

“Advice to would-be writers: Do not own a dog. John Steinbeck’s setter cost him two months’ labor on “Of Mice and Men” in the mid 1930s when one night the pup tore apart the half-finished manuscript. The text on the savaged pages, as we learn in Celia Blue Johnson’s “Dancing With Mrs. Dalloway,” was so badly mauled that Steinbeck was forced to rewrite a large portion of the book. Jack Kerouac was doing equally well with “On the Road” (which he was typing on sheets of paper taped together to avoid having to reload his typewriter) until his housemate’s cocker spaniel chewed up a few feet of the scroll. One almost expects to discover that Joseph Conrad’s Chihuahua was responsible for the extensive revisions to “Heart of Darkness.” As abetters of literary inspiration, dogs clearly rank very low—unless you happen to be John Steinbeck, who took along a canine companion for “Travels With Charley” in 1960. By then the setter had perhaps wisely been replaced by a poodle.” More: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904194604576583201758478310.html

One might wonder whether the above literary works would’ve turned out the way they did if not for the necesity to re-write. Good dogs!

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