A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example… Niccolo Machiavelli


Machiavelli’s PRINCE and Viroli’s biography certainly fit the definition of belles-lettres while Unger’s heavier tome qualifies in an almost formal sense as biography which is not to demean  any of the works. They all have their merits and while we fear that Machiavelli may actually have been writing tongue in cheek and suffered the fate of having been taken too literally by those with neither art nor science he certainly does offer food for thought. Viroli has the charm of a writer familiar with his subject and seems to give him the same enigmatic smile as his contemporary – the Mona Lisa. Unger does a wonderful job of placing him in his milieu and his historical context but doesn’t have the room – with everything else he includes – to animate the man. Somehow a proper understanding may require both [better, all three] books.
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Niccolo’s smile : a biography of Machiavelli  Maurizio Viroli ; translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar  New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000  Hardcover. 1st American ed.. xv, 271 p. : maps ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [261]-262) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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In Niccolò’s Smile, Maurizio Viroli brings to life the fascinating writer who was the founder of modern political thought. Niccolò Machiavelli‘s works on the theory and practice of statecraft are classics, but Viroli suggests that his greatest accomplishment is his robust philosophy of life — his deep beliefs about how one should conduct oneself as a modern citizen in a republic, as a responsible family member, as a good person. On these subjects Machiavelli wrote no books: the text of his philosophy is his life itself, a life that was filled with paradox, uncertainty, and tragic drama.

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Machiavelli : a biography  Miles J. Unger  New York, NY : Simon & Schuster, 2011  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 400 p. : ill. (some col.) , map ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [353]-386) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Niccolò Machiavelli is the most influential political writer of all time. His name has become synonymous with cynical scheming and the selfish pursuit of power, but the real Machiavelli, says Miles Unger, was a deeply humane and perceptive writer whose controversial theories were a response to the violence and corruption he saw around him.

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Machiavelli’s philosophy was shaped by the tumultuous age in which he lived, an age of towering geniuses and brutal tyrants. His first political mission was to spy on the fire-and-brimstone preacher Savonarola. He was on intimate terms with Leonardo and Michelangelo. As a diplomat, he matched wits with the corrupt Pope Alexander VI and his son, the infamous Cesare Borgia, whose violent career served as a model for The Prince. Analyzing their successes and failures, Machiavelli developed his revolutionary approach to power politics. His famous book is a guide that is based on the world as it is, not as it should be.
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