Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli
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Niccolò's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  110 ratings  ·  12 reviews
In Niccolò's Smile, Maurizio Viroli sheds light on the private life of the enigmatic writer who was the founder of modern political thought.

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 to conduct oneself as a modern citizen in...more
Paperback, 1st American paperback, 288 pages
Published January 9th 2002 by Hill and Wang (first published 1998)
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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....more
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
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...more
Kyle Bennett
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...more
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...more
"Niccolo's Smile" imparts character to Niccolo Machiavelli, who is traditionally accused of lacking it. The author employs Machiavelli's Letters and lesser known works such as his official dispatches as Florentine secretary, to reveal his sharp wit, intelligence and constant humanity.

Reading about key events during his service, one can find context for some of his infamous statements in The Prince.

For those who need one, it is also a good introduction to Machiavelli the writer. I only fault the...more
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another interesting take on the politics in Florence during the time of the Renaissance. Also interesting insight into the creator of the Prince.
Amazing book, told with honesty and truth about this incredible journey that Machiavelli took, all still relevant, if not more so today.
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