Accessible and impressive in scope.

THE ARTIST, THE PHILOSOPHER, AND THE WARRIOR

THE INTERSECTING LIVES OF DA VINCI, MACHIAVELLI, AND BORGIA AND THE WORLD THEY SHAPED

Historian Strathern (Napoleon in Egypt, 2008, etc.) explores the decisive influence of a ruthless Renaissance prince on both a diplomat and an artist.

Amid the shifting alliances and vulnerable kingdoms of 15th-century Italy, Cesare Borgia (1475–1507), the illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI, assumed unchecked power at a young age when his father put him at the head of the warring papal forces. Aided by the invading army of France’s Louis XII, Borgia was urged by his father to carve out his own power base in Romagna, and by 1500 he had duly subdued it, along with Urbino and other city states. Florence bordered this region and was essentially defenseless, so able negotiator Niccolò Machiavelli was sent as part of a three-man delegation to press for Florence’s protection. Up close, Machiavelli could observe this exemplary warrior, known for his treachery, depravity and brilliance, and the diplomat later made Borgia the subject of The Prince. As part of his effort to appease the rapacious ruler, Machiavelli offered the services of Florentine native Leonardo da Vinci, an expert military engineer as well as celebrated painter and designer. During the next eight months, da Vinci toured Borgia’s fortifications and suggested improvements, as evidenced by the notebook sketches reproduced here. At the same time, the artist/humanist was digesting the moral ramifications of aiding Borgia’s military engine and finding them deeply repugnant. Meanwhile, Machiavelli was using the experience derived from diplomatic duties in the service of purely self-interested rulers like Borgia to set forth a new “science” of statecraft. Both artist and philosopher were irreparably marked by personal contact with “humanity’s evil nature,” argues Strathern in this rigorous and scholarly yet readable study of the confluence of three major Renaissance figures.

Accessible and impressive in scope.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80752-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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