This new edition of Machiavelli's classic is bookended by an introduction and interpretive essay by the editor and translator, Christopher Lynch. The informative introduction is essentially a historiography, placing the work in its historical context and surveying the different arguments and revisions of its secondary literature, with Lynch arguing for a "third way" of reading Machiavelli's misunderstood work. A more general introduction to Machiavelli's life and Florentine background would have been welcome.
Lynch offers a careful close reading of the original; he makes a strong case for his translation choices, and argues for a reassessment of several key points based on his new version — for example, his interpretation of Machiavelli’s attitude towards the citizen army. His translation convincingly presents Machiavelli’s voice and aims, and his conclusions about the disharmony of civic and military lives, "the priest and the warrior, the armed and the unarmed".
Lynch claims to have striven to "remove myself from between Machiavelli and his reader", and, in this clear and literal translation, he has succeeded. The downside of this is a certain lack of color, or panache. The book takes the form of dialogues: several interlocutors pose questions and respond to the historical figure of Fabrizio Colanno (adapted by Machiavelli, argues Lynch, as a “restrained version” of the author himself). But their interjections are limited to a few lines at most, while Colanno's answers are more like monologues, delivered in the lengthy and dense sentences of the Italian original. The narrator, then, faces an uphill struggle to introduce variety into the proceedings, and the lack of modification in Victor Bevine's performance doesn't help: he gives equal weight to every line, even though asides, footnotes, and parentheses should have their own pace. What he does do well is to manufacture a sense of forward propulsion that plows through the detailed descriptions of artillery formations and gunpowder technology.
The real draw here, though, is the essay which follows the main text with barely a pause for breath. Here Lynch writes illuminatingly of "the many unexpected gifts" of Machiavelli, and justifies the need for this latest in a line of translations by seeking to find out anew exactly what kind of work this "useful and beautiful book" is. Lynch repeatedly urges us to take "a closer look". —Dafydd Phillips