The Prince, By Niccolò Machiavelli

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The Independent Culture

In the early 21st century, as global power once more meant "shock and awe", this bitter, vivid treatise on statecraft without scruple ceased to be a classic text and began to sound like an incisive commentary on the day's headlines.

Machiavelli, the disenchanted republican idealist flung into the wilderness when the Medici returned to Florence in 1512, wrote The Prince as if to say: OK, so if you prefer ruthless despotism to civic virtue, here's how to do it – with spin and savagery combined.

Tim Parks's swift and supple new translation brings out all its chilling modernity: "if you have to choose, it's much safer to be feared than loved".