This site is designed to provide two things: my rewrite of and comments on Machiavelli’s 1513 book, The Prince, and to provide space for recent posts and essays about topics related to Machiavelli and his position in politics, society and on the internet today.
My book was written in mid-2012, intended for publication. I have, however, not found a publisher yet, so I wanted to make the work available to readers who have an interest in Machiavelli and interpretations of his works.
The book is linked through the menus above, grouped by chapters that parallel the chapters in The Prince itself. Each chapter has its own page. Another menu includes the main appendices and addenda, including my bibliography. The “Misc” menu includes essays I wrote about Machiavelli, mostly after I wrote the book.
The posts below are shorter pieces written as I continue my research online and find issues I believe are relevant to understanding Machiavelli, renaissance politics, modern issues and the problems of translating from other languages.
This summer I expect to produce an e-book version for sale on iTunes and other online sites. For my biography and to read my other posts on issues not related to Machiavelli, please see my blog.
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Tim Parks, one of the most recent translators of Machiavelli’s The Prince (this is one of my personal favourites), has recently had an article published in the NY Times Review of Books. Parks’ piece is called “Reading it Wrong,” and it’s about the difficult nature of translating a foreign language in a way that both resonates with the reader and retains the sense of the original.
Parks is mostly discussing how Italian translations of English works have changed the way Italian readers see those works, in part because of small editorial decisions and the perceptions of the translators. But he also discusses what happens in the translations of Italian into English.
I quote his comment at length because it speaks to one of the chapters I wrote here about how translators have created an impression of Machiavelli based on how they handled certain key words and sentences.
Interestingly, exactly the opposite occurs with Machiavelli in English. Again expectation is everything and Machiavelli is celebrated of course for being Machiavellian. Received opinion must not shift. So when having considered the downfall of his hero and model, the ruthless Cesare Borgia, Machiavelli rather ruefully writes: “Raccolte io adunque tutte le azioni del duca, non saprei riprenderlo.” (Literally: “Having gathered then all the actions of the duke, I would not know how to reproach him.”) The translator George Bull gives, “So having summed up all that the duke did, I cannot possibly censure him.” Here the word “censure” has a strong moral connotation, made stronger still by the introduction of “cannot possibly,” which is not there in the Italian. In line with the author’s reputation for cynicism, Bull has Machiavelli insist that he has no moral objections to anything Cesare Borgia did. Actually, Machiavelli simply says Borgia didn’t make any big mistakes. The true scandal of Machiavelli is that he never considers moral criteria at all—he doesn’t feel they are applicable to a politician fighting for survival. But it is easier for us to think of an evil Machiavelli than a lucid thinker deciding that good and evil do not come into it.
In other words, the morality of the translators impresses itself on the translation and has coloured the way readers and audiences have perceived The Prince for generations. I suggest that more people are familiar with the moral “sense” of Machiavelli as portrayed by these translators than with his actual works.
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I’ve set up a Facebook page for The Municipal Machiavelli at www.facebook.com/MunicipalMachiavelli. This is where I will post links to news stories, opinion columns and other online content related to Machiavelli.
It’s also a better site for comments and to start discussions about Machiavelli, The Prince and related topics. There are many references to Machiavelli in news that are not always appropriate or relevant to the story. Please feel free to add your observations on any of the links I provide on the Facebook page, or add your own.
Please add any related images or videos, or links to same, as well.
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I recently updated several pages, including the bibliography, after receiving several relevant books from online booksellers. I’m still looking for alternate translations of Machiavelli, and would appreciate any recommendations not already noted in the biblio. PDFs of older (non-copyright) works would be appreciated.
I made Demonizing Machiavelli a separate page after I updated it with information about early English translations. Still more to add when I have time to flesh out the research, but I felt it deserved its own page. It used to be a subsection under Machiavellian Misquotes.
I have several books by Balthasar Gracian and works by Queen Elizabeth I with quotes to add, which will be a near-future project. Right now I’m working on a post about how the Pazzi conspiracy affected Machiavelli’s political thought and development.
It never seems to end…
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