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A vivid portrayal of the great Italian philosopher - now in paperback 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 sugggests that his greatest accomplishment is his robust philosophy of life -- his deep b A vivid portrayal of the great Italian philosopher - now in paperback 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 sugggests 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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A vivid portrayal of the great Italian philosopher - now in paperback 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 sugggests that his greatest accomplishment is his robust philosophy of life -- his deep b A vivid portrayal of the great Italian philosopher - now in paperback 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 sugggests 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.

30 review for Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli

  1. 5 out of 5

    icaro

    C'è qualcosa che non mi convince in questa biografia. L'autore è uno dei maggiori studiosi italiani di Machiavelli e il libro non difetta di documentazione appropriata, usata con grande mestiere. La ricostruzione della vita del segretario attraverso la corrispondenza privata è senz'altro pregevole. La narrazione è piana e la lettura scorrevole. Ma Viroli non è riuscito ad appassionarmi. Penso per analogia a una biografia di Spinoza, letta anni fa, che mi aveva fatto una grande impressione. Forse C'è qualcosa che non mi convince in questa biografia. L'autore è uno dei maggiori studiosi italiani di Machiavelli e il libro non difetta di documentazione appropriata, usata con grande mestiere. La ricostruzione della vita del segretario attraverso la corrispondenza privata è senz'altro pregevole. La narrazione è piana e la lettura scorrevole. Ma Viroli non è riuscito ad appassionarmi. Penso per analogia a una biografia di Spinoza, letta anni fa, che mi aveva fatto una grande impressione. Forse il richiamo continuo al dato della 'fortuna' (buona o cattiva) di Niccolò, pur legittima e, anzi in totale sintonia con il pensiero di Machiavelli rende un po' troppo monocorde il racconto. Non so.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Fox

    A couple things. (1) This book is a translation from the original Italian version and so obviously it was meant for an Italian audience, (2) it is not a comprehensive biography of Niccolo Machiavelli, it is more of a supplement. The book's thesis is that Machiavelli has been inaccurately portrayed as advocating princes and governments do evil, that power is more important than anything else. He is named as the proponent of feared princes. His philosophy is often referred to as the school of evil. A couple things. (1) This book is a translation from the original Italian version and so obviously it was meant for an Italian audience, (2) it is not a comprehensive biography of Niccolo Machiavelli, it is more of a supplement. The book's thesis is that Machiavelli has been inaccurately portrayed as advocating princes and governments do evil, that power is more important than anything else. He is named as the proponent of feared princes. His philosophy is often referred to as the school of evil. Even his name has negative connotations, which are unfair. If you read Machiavelli's full work, you see that he was a proponent of republican government, despised foreign tyranny, but most of all inept government. He blamed the ills of Italy during his time on the total ineptitude of its leaders, in addition to their lack of morality. He decided to take on the ineptitude problem convinced he couldn't do anything about their morals. Even the pope was a ruthless tyrant in those days. His ideal government was a republic which celebrated liberty. Machiavelli's The Prince was for already established principalities but his "Discourses" more completely lays out his philosophy. Viroli captures all of this. Unfortunately the narration is very problematic, largely due to the rough translation. Since it is for an Italian audience, it throws out tons of names an places that Americans know nothing about. I know some geography of Italy but even I couldn't keep track. The descriptions of wars, political intrigue, were all tough to follow largely due to the historical reality. Italy's leaders during this period were truly incompetent. No one could maintain peace or their own power for more than a few years. Foreign invaders entered several times during Machiavelli's lifetime and almost every time Italian leaders managed to botch things, leading to the death and misery of their people. However, it is impossible to get anything out of this when you can't track what's going on. I couldn't. Finally, the chapters on his personal life were very interesting but didn't paint him in a very positive light, despite the kind words of the author. Machiavelli was a hedonist with a dark and dirty sense of humor. In person, I bet he was very interesting and likable but clearly he had no self control. Anyway, solid read overall but it is more for an Italian audience or at least someone very familiar with Italian history, politics, and geography.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alexander J

    Even during his life, Machiavelli was a misunderstood person. The existence and use of the term 'Machiavellian' speaks to this: We view him, as many of his contemporaries viewed him, as someone who endorsed a complete lack of morality and justice in the pursuit of power. But this easily-digestible book presents a very different Machiavelli. Using Machiavelli's smile as a recurring image to vivify the various details of his life, Viroli presents us with a mischievous and loving Machiavelli who st Even during his life, Machiavelli was a misunderstood person. The existence and use of the term 'Machiavellian' speaks to this: We view him, as many of his contemporaries viewed him, as someone who endorsed a complete lack of morality and justice in the pursuit of power. But this easily-digestible book presents a very different Machiavelli. Using Machiavelli's smile as a recurring image to vivify the various details of his life, Viroli presents us with a mischievous and loving Machiavelli who stressed the importance of history and loved "liberty and civil equality". Likewise, Machiavelli, in his political theses, wrote so often about the role of Fortune, or chance or contingency, on human life. He believed that a human being was capable of controlling only half of what happens in their life, and that Fortune controlled the other half. A successful person, both on the political and the individual levels, recognized the presence of chance and planned accordingly. His life is emblematic of this philosophy. In Viroli's language, we have the opportunity to see Machiavelli as both a theorist of and an active participant in the politics of the day. Most importantly, we receive a vivid and illuminating narrative of the life of one of history's greatest and most misunderstood thinkers. All that said, I'm not sure if this book has universal appeal, or if it is more appropriate for people who already have an interest in political theory. Much of the biography combines history with theoretical musings, in this regard being a bit wonkish. But I, for one, found it highly engrossing, easy to read, and illuminating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    Interesting look into Machiavelli's entire life, both professional and personal. Written from a very sympathetic perspective, but still a good way for those unfamiliar with him to see the man beyond the impressions that most people have based on a superficial knowledge of his works.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    Solid historical context coupled with fawning prose by an author with a serious man-crush on machiavelli, which annoyed even this reader with a man-crush of his own

  6. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Gallo

    Un poco machiavellico sorriso Il sorriso, il riso e il sogghigno sono espressioni graduate e diversificate di stati d'animo con i quali gli uomini osservano la realtà e con essa interagiscono. Quella che ci troviamo a vivere nel mondo d'oggi è certamente una realtà molto diversa da quella che gli uomini hanno vissuto in passato. Essa cambia naturalmente di momento in momento. Le cose non accadono mai allo stesso modo. Ma è certamente mutata la maniera con la quale ci confrontiamo con essa. Restan Un poco machiavellico sorriso Il sorriso, il riso e il sogghigno sono espressioni graduate e diversificate di stati d'animo con i quali gli uomini osservano la realtà e con essa interagiscono. Quella che ci troviamo a vivere nel mondo d'oggi è certamente una realtà molto diversa da quella che gli uomini hanno vissuto in passato. Essa cambia naturalmente di momento in momento. Le cose non accadono mai allo stesso modo. Ma è certamente mutata la maniera con la quale ci confrontiamo con essa. Restano alcuni momenti e sentimenti che gli uomini condividono da quando vengono al mondo, indipendentemente da dove si trovano o in quale epoca sono vissuti. Ad una certa età le cose del mondo dovrebbero vedersi in maniera distaccata e disincantata. Possibilmente senza rancore, odio e cattiveria perchè ormai gran parte dei giochi si sono giocati. Si sono conosciute persone ed eventi, ognuno è stato personaggio ed interprete sul palcoscenico della vita. Se “una certa età” è quella che si è formata col susseguirsi di diversi decenni vissuti con un piede in un millennio ed un secolo nuovi e un altro in quelli precedenti, se si sono visti molti e variegati avvenimenti scorrere sotto gli occhi: papi e presidenti, governi e parlamenti, deputati e senatori, guerre e rivoluzioni, illusioni e delusioni, vittorie e sconfitte, disastri e conquiste, allora si dovrebbe avere la capacità di osservare e vivere la realtà del presente, e degli anni che ci restano da vivere, con quello stato d’animo che caratterizza la prima condizione a cui ho accennato all’inizio: il sorriso. Ed invece, così non accade sia per chi ha “una certa età”, sia per chi si trova nella “mezza età” e, più grave ancora, chi è “giovane”. Come si fa a definire un sorriso? Forse soltanto accompagnando questa parola con aggettivi, di quelli più in uso per descrivere la significativa modifica dell’aspetto e dell’atteggiamento del viso. Quest’ultimo, mai come in questo caso, è l’espressione dichiarata dello stato d’animo della persona che decide di sorridere. Sorriso leggiadro, grazioso, gentile, dolce, amorevole, pietoso, malinconico, mesto, materno, affettuoso, complice. Il sorriso può essere del cielo, della natura, della vita, della primavera, della bellezza, della giovinezza, della fortuna. Insomma uno stato d’animo quasi sempre positivo, gioioso, creativo. Il riso, invece, comporta una modificazione fisica accentuata del volto, molto più forte del sorriso. Può essere mesto, triste, di compassione, di odio, di sprezzo, di sdegno, di rabbia, canzonatorio, sardonico, maligno, mefistofelico, smodato, rumoroso, sguaiato, sgangherato. Avrete notato il forte aumento nella gradualità rispetto al sorriso. Chi ride decide di dare un giudizio, sceglie una morale da assegnare, quasi sempre negativa, un colpevole da designare, una condanna da emettere. Il cammino porta inevitabilmente a quello che è il terzo grado di giudizio decisamente inappellabile: il sogghigno. La beffa, la provocazione e la malignità caratterizzano il sogghigno. Chi sceglie questo stato d’animo sa che va allo scontro. Ha deciso di dare battaglia e nulla potrà fermarlo. E’ ben sicuro della propria superiorità non solo morale, ma anche culturale, sociale e politica. A questa persona non interessa il dialogo, il dibattito, la discussione. Ciò che conta è la distruzione dell’avversario, la vittoria su di lui ad ogni costo, il suo annientamento morale, spirituale, politico. Spesso si arriva anche alla eliminazione fisica dell’avversario che non ha via di scampo. Perchè ho voluto parlare di queste tre condizioni della mente, che ho definito “stati d’animo”, è presto detto. In questi giorni mi sono riletto la biografia di Niccolò Machiavelli di Maurizio Viroli, intitolata “Il sorriso di Machiavelli”, pubblicata diversi anni fa da Laterza. Leggendo le vicende del grande Fiorentino ho avuto modo di capire quanto sia importante, arrivati ad un certo punto dell’esistenza e della propria esperienza vissuta, saper guardare gli eventi con distacco e disincanto, con un lievemente accennato sorriso. Lo stesso sorriso che si legge sul ritratto che appare sulla copertina del libro. Non ha nulla di ambiguo, inquietante, spregiudicato, subdolo. Insomma di… machiavellico. E’ piuttosto il sorriso di chi, con questo discreto atteggiamento del volto, era vissuto guardando, osservando e vivendo le vicende degli uomini, del mondo e del suo Paese in particolare. Un sorriso che “rispondeva alle miserie della vita per non lasciarsi vincere dalla pena, dallo sdegno e dalla malinconia, e per non dare agli uomini e alla fortuna la soddisfazione crudele di vederlo piangere. Il suo sorriso era non solo il suo modo di difendersi dalla vita. Era anche il suo modo di immergersi in essa. Nel suo sorriso c’era quell’amore della libertà e dell’uguaglianza civile che fu sempre fortissimo in lui, perchè è solo fra liberi e uguali, non con i padroni nè con i servi, che si può davvero ridere. E c’era sopratutto un profondo e sincero senso di carità, quella carità che gli faceva amare la varietà del mondo ed era il suo amore per la patria, quella carità benigna, che “non ha invidia, non è perversa, non insuperbisce, non è ambiziosa, non cerca il suo proprio commodo, non si sdegna, non pensa il male, non si rallegra di quello, non gode delle vanità, tutto patisce, tutto crede, tutto spera”, come scrive nell’Esortazione. Queste parole, che Machiavelli fa sue, sono l’ultima chiave per capire, forse la bellezza del suo sorriso e della sua saggezza di vivere”. Con queste bellissime parole Maurizio Viroli conclude la biografia del grande Fiorentino. Senza dubbio uno dei più grandi Italiani di tutti i tempi. Il grande teatro della politica del suo tempo ha insegnato ben poco ai suoi compatrioti di oggi a distanza di tanti anni. Nessuno in questo Bel Paese è disposto ad imparare dalla Storia. Solo e sempre idee di smodata ed infinita ambizione, invidie piccole e grandi, tempeste provocate e prevedibili, vere e presunte tragedie, la vita come farsa e commedia, aggressioni fisiche e giudiziarie, bizantinismi, moralismi, interessi personali e di gruppo. Firenze e l’Italia di allora si ritrovano e si rinnovano nell’Italia di oggi. E’ vero, mancano le impiccagioni, il sangue nelle piazze, le esecuzioni pubbliche, i roghi e gli eserciti invasori. Tutto è più sofisticato, subdolo, strisciante, colorato, virtuale e subliminale, in grado di essere recepito, accettato e fatto proprio dall’individuo e dalla massa, in maniera inconscia. Sempre in nome della libertà, una parola usata, questa volta sì, con “ipocrito sorriso”. Non si sa più sorridere con leggerezza, accettazione, distacco, con la volontà di capire anche le ragioni dell’altro, di venirgli incontro, di offrire e trovare convergenze. Si preferisce ridere smoderatamente, applaudire all’unanimità, con crudele sarcasmo, demolire con la satira distruttiva che non fa sconti e non costruisce, sgretola gratuitamente, sovverte demonizzando. Pronti a passare al sogghigno che prelude allo scoppio dell’applauso distruttivo finale, segna l’uscita di scena dell’avversario, stanato e fatto colpevole, pronto allo scherno pubblico, al lancio della monetina, al disprezzo popolare. L’antica gogna, il decisivo rogo, questa volta mediatico. La vostra guida, per difendersi e sopravvivere, ha deciso di sorridere prima di se stesso e poi degli altri e del mondo. Ha scelto per questo post Niccolò e vi assicura di essere stato in buona compagnia.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michel

    This song goes to you Niccolo, 🎵Aloe Blacc - You Make Me Smile🎵 (Mmmm) You make me smile (Ba-be, mmmm) You make me smile I think its safe to say Things just haven’t been going my way No work coming in, so my money is thin And I still got bills to pay But all in all you been right here with me When I’m sinking low you come through and lift me It’s nothing more than the love that you give me Keeps me from drowning in tears You make me smile (Oh, you make me smile) You make me smile (You Come through and save th This song goes to you Niccolo, 🎵Aloe Blacc - You Make Me Smile🎵 (Mmmm) You make me smile (Ba-be, mmmm) You make me smile I think its safe to say Things just haven’t been going my way No work coming in, so my money is thin And I still got bills to pay But all in all you been right here with me When I’m sinking low you come through and lift me It’s nothing more than the love that you give me Keeps me from drowning in tears You make me smile (Oh, you make me smile) You make me smile (You Come through and save the day) You make me smile (You make me smile!) You make me smile (In a very special way) Everywhere I go people seem to ask me Where I get my joy, why am I so happy? In these trying times when a frown is the fashion I’m beaming like the sun, now how can that be? See the answer to the query is very simple I’m always grinning from dimple to dimple Because you love me unconditionally My happiness is heart-shaped, can’t you see (When you were gone) Can’t you see when you’re gone girl (When you’re gone away from me) I just don’t know what to do (Don’t know what to do) Everything about you girl (Everything, everything, everything, everything) Everything revolves around you (Revolves around you) You make me smile (And I wanna thank you, for making me smile) You make me smile (You came through and saved the day) You make me smile (You make me smile!) You make me smile (Oh, in a very special way) You make me smile (You make me smile, Ooo) You make me smile (Love the way you make me hold my head up high) You make me smile (You make me smile!) You make me smile (Feel like I've been walking the sky) You make me smile (When nothin's going my way, what else can I say?) You make me smile (When I can't see the light here you come shining bright) You make me smile (When everything's bad and I'm feelin' real sad) You make me smile (When I don't have the answers you always give me a chance to smile...) You make me smile... Smile! Smile!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alberto

    La sonrisa se Maquiavelo es una biografía con un toque tragicómico que le aporta originalidad, aportando el rigor histórico que las novelas no suelen tener con el dinamismo que las biografías más académicas carecen. Ambientada en una época terrible para Florencia, en el que las luchas internas y las guerras desangran no solo a la pequeña república sino a la península italiana en su totalidad, “La sonrisa de Maquiavelo” combina algunos pasajes de gravedad con otros episodios realmente divertidos, La sonrisa se Maquiavelo es una biografía con un toque tragicómico que le aporta originalidad, aportando el rigor histórico que las novelas no suelen tener con el dinamismo que las biografías más académicas carecen. Ambientada en una época terrible para Florencia, en el que las luchas internas y las guerras desangran no solo a la pequeña república sino a la península italiana en su totalidad, “La sonrisa de Maquiavelo” combina algunos pasajes de gravedad con otros episodios realmente divertidos, como aquel en el que el irreverente y libertino Maquiavelo engaña a unos monjes para vivir a cuerpo de rey a su costa durante varias días. Gracias al difícil equilibrio que alcanza, siendo un libro a la par informativo y divertido, estamos ante una biografía muy recomendable para cualquier lector interesado en el Renacimiento italiano y en la figura de Maquiavelo.

  9. 4 out of 5

    LA

    While I had always been interested in Machiavelli and his philosophies, it was piqued after seeing his role in "The Borgias." This was an interesting read that brought up additional works by Machiavelli that I plan to read later, as well as the long-running thread about his relationship with Cesare Borgia.

  10. 5 out of 5

    The Motivated Rambler

    Being the first biography I have read on Niccolo, I am glad I chose this title. Like many, I have always been fascinated by the things Niccolo has said and the advice he had given to those in positions of power. It was a great thing to be able to understand the events in his life (personal and political) that brought him to say such famous--or infamous--quotes that ultimately depicted him in a certain light. The part I enjoyed the most was his time in which he produced The Prince and how he atte Being the first biography I have read on Niccolo, I am glad I chose this title. Like many, I have always been fascinated by the things Niccolo has said and the advice he had given to those in positions of power. It was a great thing to be able to understand the events in his life (personal and political) that brought him to say such famous--or infamous--quotes that ultimately depicted him in a certain light. The part I enjoyed the most was his time in which he produced The Prince and how he attempted to use it as a means to regain his former self. This man loved Florence, and when he no longer had the power to position her for greatness, the reason for living seemed to escape Niccolo. Overall, a great book on Machiavelli. Highly recommended. Some of the advice he gave during his time can still be applied today.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle David

    A concise, insightful intro to the life and context of Machiavelli for a popular audience. Viroli paints an interesting portrait of Machiavelli through the suggestive lens of his smile. However, Viroli doesn't land where he tells us he will. He invites us to consider the real Machiavelli through his philosophy of life, not simply his political philosophy. Yet, while giving us copious (albeit enjoyable) details about his life, Viroli spends very little ink on what is Machiavelli's philosophy of l A concise, insightful intro to the life and context of Machiavelli for a popular audience. Viroli paints an interesting portrait of Machiavelli through the suggestive lens of his smile. However, Viroli doesn't land where he tells us he will. He invites us to consider the real Machiavelli through his philosophy of life, not simply his political philosophy. Yet, while giving us copious (albeit enjoyable) details about his life, Viroli spends very little ink on what is Machiavelli's philosophy of life. I found this a bit disappointing, and struggled to pinpoint what makes this biography different from others.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diem

    Interesting read and a good synopsis of the lead-up to the sack of Rome. Maybe something is lost in the translation but it was unnecessarily prosey in spots and the language a bit hackneyed. Sometimes read like a college paper. The author and I disagree strongly on topics of morality so some of Machiavelli's behaviors that he found laudable I found repulsive. That said, Machiavelli may be unfairly portrayed as a political philosopher especially since the secular humanists won the canon wars of t Interesting read and a good synopsis of the lead-up to the sack of Rome. Maybe something is lost in the translation but it was unnecessarily prosey in spots and the language a bit hackneyed. Sometimes read like a college paper. The author and I disagree strongly on topics of morality so some of Machiavelli's behaviors that he found laudable I found repulsive. That said, Machiavelli may be unfairly portrayed as a political philosopher especially since the secular humanists won the canon wars of the '80s. The author does a good job showing why.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Meghana34

    This did not live up to my expectations. It's actually an analysis of other source materials, such as letters and ambassador reports. It's not a comprehensive biography, and at times the language was too informal for me, but it did have some interesting information. Still, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unless they are seriously obsessed with Machiavelli (like me).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    A very clear biography intermixed with Italian politics but not particularly confusing. Helpful to have read The Prince, at least, in reading this one. Not sure how much I agree with his depiction of this man. Certainly a good place to start for chewing over who Machiavelli was.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven Spector

    Translated from the Italian. The author's passion for his subject is easily spotted. Not the first bio on NM I'd read, but one I'd read while eating a heaping bowl of ziti and smiling through my chews.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Another interesting take on the politics in Florence during the time of the Renaissance. Also interesting insight into the creator of the Prince.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brook Finlayson

    First rate biography of an intruguing character. Machiavelli is not who you think. Most of what is thought of him is flawed. This is a very engaging read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    Amazing book, told with honesty and truth about this incredible journey that Machiavelli took, all still relevant, if not more so today.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Mccann

  20. 5 out of 5

    Germano Vieira

  21. 4 out of 5

    Israel

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melvin Fogg, III

  23. 5 out of 5

    Randy Morrison

  24. 4 out of 5

    Storm

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

  26. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro

  28. 4 out of 5

    Breda Fallacy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marc Thomas

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Ortiz

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