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Niccolo's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli Paperback – Jan 9 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reprint edition (Jan. 9 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374528004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374528003
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #751,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Elegant and accessible ... Viroli provides [a straightforward chronological account of events] in the pellucid Italian original, whose gracefulness has not been lost in Antony Shugaar's excellent translation ... The dramatics events of Italian political life and Machiavelli's participation in them ... determine the rhythm of his story. (Mark Lilla, The Washington Post Book World)

A welcome antidote to the clichéd image of self-interested knavery for which [Machiavelli] has become known ... Viroli succeeds ... in offering a fascinating portrait. (Alexander Stille, The New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Maurizio Viroli has written many works on political philosophy, most notably Machiavelli. A professor of politics at Princeton University, he lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and Forli, Italy.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
According to legend, just before his death on 21 June 1527, Niccolo Machiavelli told the faithful friends who had stayed with him to the very end about a dream he had had, a dream that over the centuries became renowned as "Machiavelli's dream." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cHaRLeNE rAMaN on May 28 2002
Format: Paperback
"No man has been more misunderstood," some would say. Who truly is the man behind the famous smile of determination and challenge? Why would anyone advise a ruler to be deceitful? Viroli's Niccolo's Smile is one of few biographies on Niccolo Machiavelli which can help lead us to the answers of our most controversial questions about his life. The book starts off by stating Niccolo's date of birth, family life, and means of education. However, if you read closely about his education, the author helps unlink a clue for us behind the mystery of how Machiavelli was launched into his political career. In the middle of the book are the tales of Machiavelli's first and most important missions while he was second chancellor. Viroli also talks about the politician's most famous work which he's known for, The Prince. Here and there the author talks about Machiavelli's love life and hard times in life, including his banishment in 1513. Sadly, the book does have a depressing ending when it starts to unwind when the author tells the details of this poor man's, whose ideas were ahead of his time, last, depressing days.
My favorite part of Niccolo's Smile was the chapter about Niccolo's banishment from Florence. I liked this chapter because it was written with such an amount of detail. To me, it seemed like the author interviewed Machiavelli because he knew Machiavelli's exact feelings during every minute of his expulsion from his native town. It was in this part of the book which made me feel the deepest sympathy for this man. Especially since Machiavelli's banishment was his punishment for committing a crime he was falsely accused for.
Viroli's Niccolo's Smile was a slightly interesting read considering it was a biography. It taught me many new things behind the world of politics.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Niccolo's Smile Sept. 15 2009
By T. M. Hukins - Published on
Format: Paperback
Ever since I was four years old and first laid eyes upon Machiavelli's portait in an encyclopedia, I have been mystified by him. Throughout my education I had always been taught that Machiavelli was not such a nice guy. However, after reading "Niccolo's Smile" I've learned that the real Machiavelli isn't so Machiavellian at all. Besides the fact that he possessed a great mind, he was not only an extremely observant man, but he was also a patriot. "Niccolo's Smile" gives the reader a real glimpse into the life of Machiavelli contrary to the worn out image of Machiavelli as being a cold, shrewd, calculating politician. "Niccolo's Smile" paints a portrait of the real man with a heart and soul who felt the same joys and sorrows we all experience. Much praise goes out to "Niccolo's Smile".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A Good Read and Excellent Intro to "Machia's" Life Aug. 8 2006
By C. Pruett - Published on
Format: Paperback
Every now and then you read a book that brings its subject to life. Having studied Machiavelli from his writings, it helps to now know of his charms. This book contributed to my understanding of his works but more importantly to the background and history of his conversations. A good, quick read... Recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Myth Destroyer of a Book Dec 28 2011
By Ugur Akinci - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Until I read this fantastic volume I did not realize that Niccolo Machiavelli is a guy who suffers from bad publicity. Mention "Machiavelli" and most people will come back with adjectives like "amoral," "opportunistic," "merciless," "conspiratorial" etc. The implication that goes hand in hand with such a reputation is that the author of the incomparable THE PRINCE was a life-long supporter of dictatorships. That's why in English the term "Macchiavellian" has become the antithesis of "Democrat."

When you read this well-researched volume, however, you come to realize that Machiavelli was actually a true lover of liberty who devoted his life to the preservation of the Republic of Florence. Was he always successful in that endeavor? No. Actually, after serving as the Secretary of the Republic before its collapse, Machiavelli could never again rise to any public position of importance until the last years of his life when the Republic was restored if only briefly. However, even though he ached to remain relevant to the political life of his beloved Florence, he never used his deep insight into the power dynamics of his time for any sinister personal agendas. He was first and foremost a defender of the citizens' rights and the right of the citizens to rule themselves. He was perhaps the first professional political consultant in Western history who also happened to be a Republican in the generic sense of the term.

So why did Machiavelli get a "bad rap" for over 400 years? Because, in contrast to Cicero, he did not believe that "being nice" was all a ruler had to do to protect both his power and his people. Sometimes you needed to resort to muscle too. That's why Machiavelli organized the first "people's army" in Italian history since he believed that a Republic had the duty to defend itself against the aggressors and sometimes elected rulers were duty-bound to strike instead of negotiating or paying a ransom. I believe that hard-nosed conviction in the wisdom of self-defense and the occasional need to resort to arms and do "what's necessary" is the main reason why a lot of people still remember Machiavelli as a somewhat unsavory character who advocated cutting corners in politics. When you read this volume, however, a totally different Machiavelli emerges and you understand the injustice done to this sincere, observant, and courageous lover of liberties over the centuries.

Another payoff of this volume is the deep insight it provides into the private life of Machiavelli including his many love affairs, his travels, and the gusto with which he lived his life. Realpolitik never had a proponent who wrote like he'd never die but joked, traveled, ate, and loved like every day was his last. Highly recommended.
even by those who should know better. If I had to put any label on ... April 14 2015
By Amelia Pasch - Published on
Format: Paperback
I have been reading an English translation of this biography by Maurizio Viroli about Niccolo Machiavelli and reached the conclusion that the man is completely misunderstood, even by those who should know better. If I had to put any label on him I would suggest that he was the equivalent of a modern investigative journalist. he observed those in power, commented on their behavour, but it seems to me that the reputaion he has for being a highly politicised schemer is wholly misguided. I really like the man. That may be what the author intended, of course, but it is really nice when a book brings something refreshing to the table.
An interesting perspective Dec 26 2012
By D. Bryan - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love K&N filters and have trusted many expensive and some highly modified cars to them. These work great on my slightly modified 02 Camaro. Many see Machiavelli as a cold hearted bastard that taught people to be liars and dictators. This puts his life and works in a new perspective. Who would have known that Machiavelli was the life of the party at one point? If you want to get to know one of the greatest minds this world has ever seen a little better you need to read this book.