Saturday, May 24, 2008

The recent case of Nicky Reilly was the major tabloid topic this week. The surreality of the Conradian aspect to the episode seemed lost on most commentary. When life imitates art the whole line between reality and fiction becomes blurred. Very few facts have been released about the exact motives and affiliations of the 'bomber' from Plymouth, who seemed to be attempting to blow up an obscure restaurant in Exeter. Nonetheless the fear factor is accelerated and the episode fits neatly into that precise narrative, namely we need to be on guard against this Islamico-Anarchist threat and the "indoctrination" by "radicals" of innocent youth.

The MI5 predictably claimed to have known of Nicky Reilly - a Muslim convert - and that he crossed their "radar", but I have a suspicion that MI5 have absolutely know idea how to handle this threat. Its nothing like the IRA, and the only vague historical parrallel can be found in the dark urban setting of Conrad's The Secret Agent, in 19th Century London, where anarchists attempt the most absurd and audacious atrocities, while lamenting the artificial and corrupt institutions that surround them. With the vast underworld, secret meetings in coffee shops (in this case a chip shop), and bombs carried on 40 minute bus journies some of the detailed conguity with the novel is uncanny.