Machiavelli in Hell by Sebastian de Grazia - review by Antonia Nashe

Antonia Nashe

Disgusting but Nice

Machiavelli in Hell


Harvester-Wheatsheaf 497pp £12.95 order from our bookshop

‘Strip yourselves naked, all of you,’ Machiavelli advised. Machiavelli in Hell is a portrait of a naked civil servant, whom we first encounter when he is busy ‘on the job’. That title refers to Machiavelli’s duties as a secretary-ambassador to the Italian government, though for the English reader it might have other connotations. As a Professor of Political Philosophy at Rutgers University, Sebastian de Grazia is admirably equipped to expose Machiavellian machinations , introducing us to such wonderful figures as Savonarola engaged in the Yes, Minister tactics of denying a denial. There are the Borgias, the Medicis, murder and mayhem in late medieval Florence, and the delightfully devilish character of old ‘Niccolo’ himself. What a glorious setting for a novel by Hilary Mantel or Rose Tremain.

How beneficial it would be if modern politicians were obliged to follow the courtly tradition of despatching a sonnet instead of massaging the statistics. Imagine the corridors of power inhabited by people who could rhyme, scan and make sense. Of the present incumbents, perhaps only Michael Foot would qualify. Machiavelli’s

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