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Niccolo Machiavelli's Art of War is one of the world's great classics of military and political theory. Praised by the finest military minds in history and said to have influenced no lesser lights than Frederick the Great and Napoleon, the Art of War is essential for anyone who wants to understand the history and theory of war in the West and for those familiar with The Prince and Discourse on Livy who seek to explore more fully the connection between war and politics in Machiavelli's thought.
Machiavelli scholar Christopher Lynch offers a sensitive and entirely new translation of the Art of War, faithful to the original but rendered in modern, idiomatic English. Lynch's fluid translation helps listeners appreciate anew Machiavelli's brilliant treatments of the relationships between war and politics, civilians and the military, and technology and tactics. Clearly laying out the fundamentals of military organization and strategy, Machiavelli marshals a veritable armory of precepts, prescriptions, and examples about such topics as how to motivate your soldiers and demoralize the enemy's, avoid ambushes, and gain the tactical and strategic advantage in countless circumstances. To help listeners better appreciate the Art of War, Lynch provides an insightful introduction that covers its historical and political context, sources, influence, and contemporary relevance. He also includes a substantial interpretive essay discussing the military, political, and philosophical aspects of the work.
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I liked the book. And had no trouble with the narration. The differed people speaking are recognizable by their voice. But not in a bad way. The translator really loves Niccolo Machiavelli, and it show in the piece after the book itself. But the translation is a bit, maybe outdated, to stay close to the original may be the best way to put it. Just listen to the preview, and you have a good taste of what it is.
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intriguing ,but not as relevant as The Prince
While sometimes reading more like a rennasance manual on field tactics than a phillosophical treatment on the subject, The Art of War fills in the gaps for those who wish to understand more about the world that sparked Machiavelli's ideas in The Prince. Why did he hate mercenaries so much? What were the historical stories (or antecdotes) that were behind his political policies? What was his view as an experienced millitary man about the rising importance of firearms in battle?
The narrator does a pretty good job on all the characters (the book is arranged as a Socratic dialogue) and also includes two long-winded and somewhat controversial essays before and after the book. I feel listening to the essays helped me understand the book better. However, despite any evidence to support this claim, the writer of these essays tends to go off on sensationlist tangents about how the real enemy Machiavelli was fighting against was Christianity. That and maybe the overly- detailed army camp and formation plans were really my only complaints with the book. In conclusion, read The Prince first, if your still interested, listen to this next.
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Timeless Insight, Preposterous Translation
Would you try another book from Niccolo Machiavelli and/or Victor Bevine?
Niccolo Machiavelli, yes.
Victor Bevine, not a chance.
What other book might you compare Art of War to and why?
The obvious comparison is to Sun Tzu's Art of War, but I think it makes a better companion to The Prince than it does to Sun Tzu. Machiavelli spends a great deal of time describing why developing skill in war is vital to a leader in The Prince, and expands on the theme greatly in this book. The translator here suggests it's better paired with Machiavelli's "Discourses on Livy", but I have not read that and cannot comment.
How could the performance have been better?
The performance was weirdly intense and oddly enunciated, as though the reader was ordered to emphasize hard consonants at all costs and to hold the microphone extremely close. It wasn't bad at first, but grated more and more as the book continued. The decision to use English pronunciations of Italian and Latin words, such as "bratcha" and "Sippy-oh" (for the Italian unit of measurement "braccia" and the Roman general Scipio, respectively) was distracting and mystifying.
Was Art of War worth the listening time?
Even with the performance driving me up the wall, it made the source material far more approachable than reading it myself, so yes, but not nearly as much as I had hoped.
Any additional comments?
Mr. Bevine's reading of the book was done no favors by the translator, who made it a specific point to use the most primitive terms when translating from the original Italian. I understand his goal, which was to insert himself as little as possible and let Machiavelli's words speak as much for themselves as possible, but in practice, this opens the door to confusion and ambiguity.
One egregious example of this is the use of the word "order" when the specific context calls for "command", "structure", "pattern", "placement", "lawfulness", or any of the other meanings of the word "order". Yes, using the word "order" is appropriate in each case, but using the same word for all cases makes it needlessly confusing. Again, however, this is due to the translator, not the performer.
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Great Book, Lousey Narration, Silly Editors Note
This is one of the classics of military science. It is dramatically underrated and unappreciated by most. As a book it is a wonderful source of information and history. For those reasons it is worth listening to. I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Anyone interested in pre-20th Century Military History SHOULD read this book.
But the narration and the edition are poor at best. The narrator was confronted with a problem, the book is in the form of a dialog between a hardened veteran and a number of neophytes. Unfortunately he decided to exaggerate the difference so that the veteran is narrated in a really gruff voice that is so odd that it makes it hard to listen to. The other problem is that the translators essays are silly. They are in fact both irrelevant and really rather bizarre.
In sum: The book - 5 stars; the narration 3 stars; the editor's notes and essays - 1 star at best. Since one can always skip the editors notes, I have averaged it to 4 stars.
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- Paul Z.
Good Translation and Reading
The Christopher Lynch translation with an interesting essay/interpretation (around two hours) about Machiavelli and The Art of War after the book.
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