Last night, on some impulse, I picked up the copy of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent on my shelf. I had read it once before, but it hadn't really 'clicked' with me. This time it did, however, and I found myself reading the whole thing through despite the fact that I had several other things I needed to get done. The irony is beautifully done, the sorrow that I would say saturates the book moves smoothly from sad to gloomy to horrifying, the characters are excellently drawn. I highly recommend it.
We tend to forget that terrorism is not a new thing sprung on us in the past few years. There was at least one other major wave of terrorism that swept the Western world, felling politicians, killing innocents, and starting conflicts. The Secret Agent takes place in this period, being written around 1906 and describing events taking place in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The idea for the story came from an actual event: a man named Martial Bourdin had attempted to blow up Greenwich Observatory (and, obviously, failed), and The Secret Agent is a fictional story in part based on this odd terrorist act, the rationale for which is very difficult to see. For the story of the real Greenwich attempt see here; it has some spoilers for The Secret Agent, but don't worry too much about them, because it actually garbles the plot a bit, and doesn't give away much anyway.
Apparently there was a movie based on Conrad's book a few years ago, starring Christian Bale, Gerard Depardieu, and a few other big names. I've never seen it, but since I like Depardieu, I might have to watch it sometime.