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The Prince

January 21, 2011

I’m going to be departing from my normal gaming posts. I borrowed The Prince from the school library yesterday (where it appears, unfortunately, that I have accumulated 17 dollars in overdue fines) and have read it from cover to cover. (The Harvey C. Mansfield translation, if you’re interested.)

The book is super-awesome.

Why? Well, what book do you know that says (constantly) things like “For in truth there is no secure mode to possess [citystates] other than ruin them.” Huh? And what book do you know that says “But above all, he must abstain from the property of others, because men forget the death of a father more quickly than the loss of a patrimony.” How awesome is that? The Prince is a manuscript of satire and very, very dry wit. Machiavelli summarises things with a precise, astute conciseness, and the best (or worst) part is that he is most of the time completely correct.

Though this book certainly has its educational side (after all, it was dedicated to a certain Lorenzo de’ Medici) and it does show in quotes like “I say that whoever considers the discourse written above will see that either hatred or disdain has been the cause of the ruin of the emperors named before.”, some of its assertions are really very, very shocking – and utterly hilarious. They aren’t hilarious in the sense of person-slips-on-banana-peel, nor in the sense of amusing wordplay. What makes it funny is the entire unexpectedness of some of Machiavelli’s assertions, and the nonchalant way in which he proclaims these statements.

The book was an amusing read from start to end. The end bit, about Exhortation to Seize Italy and to Free Her from the Barbarians was a bit of a downer, though, because it read like emotionally-charged, political rhetoric what I expected The Prince to be in the first place. But otherwise, The Prince was a fantastic read.

Now off to sleep.

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