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BOOKSHELF: The Prince

The Prince Is a rendition of the real attitudes that forms life and living.

india Updated: May 06, 2006 12:12 IST

The Prince 
Nicolo Machiavelli
Price — Rs 220
Publication — Penguin Classics

The first time I had come across the name of Nicolo Machiavelli was in an animated hand book. It appears strange now that the life and times of an author dubbed as ‘the devil’ could form such a subject. Nicolo Machiavelli was despised from the very beginning.

People simply hated him. They couldn’t stand his sight. And this continued for centuries. His crime was a book he wrote by the name of The Prince. The reason why The Prince was a subject of such severe criticism was its subject matter politics, or rather the politics of power.

Most of us have stopped making devils out of authors, but Machiavelli lived in a different time. The period of the 14th century Florence was the temple of upheavals.

The Mediccis who rules the Florentine kingdom were Machiavelli’s inspiration. He set out to fashion an understanding as to how one could obtain power and retain it. Today the term ‘Machiavellian’ is an adjective.

The journey it has taken is a measure of the clarity that was embodied by the world’s first author on political science. Reading The Prince, even today, is a disturbing task for here is one book that does not ask us to be good. It asks us to be what the requirements bid us to be.

This notion was, in the 14th century, in direct conflict with the Bible and therefore the church. Yet the magic of the work lies in its simplicity. Even eight centuries apart, the book feels just as fresh as ever.

The Prince is startling read. While it makes one that little bit wiser, it also is a rendition of the real attitudes that forms life and living. It takes time to digest the hard truth. But people have come to look at the positive side of Machiavelli that he wasn’t chewing on words.

Today Machiavelli is considered as a saint, a far cry from the 14 century and how time subverts ideals. And with it The Prince has attained the respect it deserves.