Tim Parks on learning to love Machiavelli

Wed Sep 9, 2009 10:21am EDT
 
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By Deepa Babington

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Nearly five centuries after Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince" first shocked readers, author Tim Parks argues the Florentine diplomat's chilling guide to holding power is just as relevant today as it was then.

Author of "Europa" and "Italian Neighbours," Parks now gives us a modern translation of the scandalous book that advocates the ruthless elimination of enemies, allies and ethics to win and hold on to power.

His admiration for the cruel Cesare Borgia and belief that it is better to be feared than loved has ensured Machiavelli's notoriety, but Parks says the book is as much as anything an expose on the politics of power.

A Briton who has lived in Italy since 1981 and translated works by Alberto Moravia and Italo Calvino, Parks spoke to Reuters about writing, his fondness for Machiavelli and why the United States could have used the book's wisdom in Iraq:

Q: How is a book about grabbing power in 16th century Italy relevant today?

A: Machiavelli isolates the problem of collective psychology and individual psychology -- the psychology of leadership, loyalty, the best way to arrive at situations where people will do what you want, be faithful, and how you can be their leader.

Since those are the issues he begins to isolate as crucial to success, any leader can learn from what he's saying.

Any ordinary person who's dealing with leaders can learn. It's one of the great handbooks of all time, not necessarily for how to become a monomaniac, but what it means to negotiate relations of leaderships and serving leaders.   Continued...