Machiavelli Is Everywhere

Maybe it's the times, but I'm seeing references to Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince everywhere. Jeffrey Pfeffer's new Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't mentions him only briefly (in a section titled "Likability is Overrated," natch) but Machiavelli's notion that he's describing the world as it is and not as we'd like it to be is Pfeffer's point as well. (If you want to read the original, there are a zillion translations; my favorite is the one by David Wootton, with an introduction that kicks off with Machiavelli being tortured by Florentine authorities.)

m1.jpgWriters like Pfeffer are reinforcing how contemporary Machiavelli's ideas are, and now we have a new way to see Machiavelli, too. Artist Don MacDonald is working on a graphic novel that shows how the real mid-level diplomat in 15th-century city has no relation to the evil opportunist he's painted as in the popular imagination.

m2.jpgThat's not the only reason I'm following Machiavelli as MacDonald is publishing it online a little at a time. Not only is MacDonald telling the story of the famed author in a new way, but he's using tools we don't often see (well, I don't often see) in English-language graphic novels. There's no superhero stuff, no manga influence. Indeed, it's influenced most by the pen and ink styles of artists in preindustrial Europe, especially the Renaissance and Mannerist artists. It tells an important story in an unexpected way; it's a fascinating project, expertly done. Look at it!