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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book!
Unlike a lot of the writers who sprung out of the medieval period, the Decameron is extremely readable. 100 stories organized into 10-day chunks makes this book a classic piece of literature... and unlike Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, you don't have to wade through the language to get at the meaning (part of this has to do with the translation of Italian into modern...
Published on November 1, 2004 by Ellis Bell

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This translation is terrible
This is not a review of Boccaccio, just this translation that originated in 1886. The 19th century English literature is fantastic. There is no reason that a translation of the bawdy Boccaccio should not reflect the wit of Austin, the 3 dimensions of Dickens or the wonder of Melville and so many others.

I am sorry to say that this translation, unless you like...
Published on July 3, 2011 by Pietr Hitzig


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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a book!, November 1, 2004
Unlike a lot of the writers who sprung out of the medieval period, the Decameron is extremely readable. 100 stories organized into 10-day chunks makes this book a classic piece of literature... and unlike Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, you don't have to wade through the language to get at the meaning (part of this has to do with the translation of Italian into modern English).

During the Plague of the mid-14th century, ten people (7 women and 3 men) escape the city of Florence to the then-countryside of Fiesole. Each day they elect a king or queen, who dictates the theme of the day's stories. Centering around love, lust, sex, and relationships between people, the stories in the Decameron transcend stereotypes of the middle ages and created a scintillating and fresh approach to the art of storytelling. The Decameron is one of my favorite novels; this is the second time I've read it, and it never ceases to amaze me by the depth of human life represented.

In addition, this is an excellent translation of the original; the translators manage to get at Boccaccio's meaning without destroying his prose.
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64 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can read it in 10-minute chunks, July 17, 2003
By 
Philip Greenspun (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews
Don't be intimidated by this medieval masterpiece. It is actually just a collection of very loosely related short stories, most of which are rather comical. You need not read them in one sitting and you need not read them all. In fact, the editors provide a list of their favorite stories (an alternative view is that they are telling you which ones to skip).
Great modern translation.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mammoth collection of medieval tales, April 5, 2004
By 
I ain't no porn writer (author, "Crippled Dreams") - See all my reviews
This mammoth collection of short stories was written in the wake of the Bubonic Plague which killed a third of the population of Europe back in the 14th century. The stories are for the most part really good narratives, and they're told through ten young noblemen who are trying to hide out from the plague to save themselves and tell these stories to pass the time. Written in a clear, classical, controlled, strongly plotted style, these are tales about sex, violence, intrigue... but nothing gratuitous of course. Good, easy-to-read translation!
David Rehak
author of "Love and Madness"
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent translation, January 3, 2007
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I've tried to read these stories several times before but this is by far the best translation I've found yet. Very adult reading but passes for educational and is a great summer read!
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Italy's Canterbury Tales, July 9, 2004
By 
Anyechka (Rensselaer, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This is an awesome collection of a hundred stories told over ten days, by the young people Fiammetta, Dioneo, Filostrato, Neifile, Emilia, Elisa (or Elissa), Filomena, Panfilo, Pampinea, and Lauretta, who have temporarily left Florence because of the scariness of the Plague. Each of them also brings also a servant. The introductory chapter is really gripping, told from the pov of someone who actually lived through that devastating and frightening time when this mysterious deadly disease was sweeping through Europe, killing nearly everyone, devastating families and churches, destroying morality, and generally creating a very terrifying atmosphere. The young people spend more than ten days on hiatus from Florence, taking some of the days off for religious purposes, but most of the time is spent telling stories. Most of the days have a theme to be followed, like love stories that began sadly but ended happily, though Dioneo gets to tell a story on whatever topic he likes. Because of this privilege, he always must tell his story last.
This came before the Canterbury Tales, and I consider it a lot better. Chaucer seems to have been greatly influenced by it in that a number of his own tales are suspiciously similar to stories in here; one is admittedly even a practically word-by-word retelling of the final Decameron story. There are all sorts of people in these stories, from all walks of life, doing all kinds of things, things which many people would never think of people of this time period doing. Nearly everyone commits adultery or has premarital sex, people deceive priests and friars with false confessions, women are just as sexually demanding as the men, people cheat one another out of goods and money, women get rid of unwanted suitors, monks, nuns, friars, and priests violate their vows of chastity, even a (for the time) very risqué tale about a gay man who marries a woman as a cover for his ongoing affairs with other men. A lot of the stories are also very funny, like the priest who makes a vain woman believe the Angel Gabriel is in love with her and is using the priest's body to sleep with her every night, or (my favourite) the tale about how to put the Devil back into Hell. Women were second-class citizens and property at this time in history, yet there are plenty of spirited female characters who get what they want and are smarter than the men in their lives.
There are only a few stories in here I would consider dated doozies. The story where the moral is to learn to beat your wife so she won't assert herself and disobey her husband's every last word is repugnant, and I hate the eighth story of the fifth day. Nastagio has spent nearly all of his money trying to court a woman who doesn't like him, and after seeing a bizarre supernatural scene involving a man in his same position, a man who killed himself, he decides to invite the woman and some friends and family over to lunch the next time this scene occurs. Because he threw his weight around, this poor woman was terrified she would end up in Hell and be chased by a phantom knight and mauled by phantom dogs every Friday, and so gave in to this bully. The first story of the fifth day, about Cimone, also is very dated...how is it a happy ending to a love story when the man throws his weight around and bullies the woman into being with him? The second story in the book is also way dated and offensive-a merchant bullies his Jewish friend (typically only called by his name thrice during the story) into converting to Christianity, and the man makes a pilgrimage to Rome and comes back convinced he must convert, since Christianity thrives despite the corruption of the Vatican. That's pure Christian fantasy and just historical inaccuracy; the huge majority of Jews who changed religions in that era of time did not do so out of conviction but rather for improved social, business, or educational status. Though in the second of the stories where Saladin, the legendary Muslim ruler, appears, he is treated as one of the two heroes of the story, not some "heathen" who has no virtues and who must be converted asap.
A lot of books written during the Middle Ages are no longer remembered or in print today. There's a reason why this has stuck around for hundreds of years and is regarded as a timeless classic.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If stranded on an island, this is the book to have., December 5, 2005
100 stories to read time and again.

The Decameron contains many references to the church and its influence. The first story of Ser Cepparello pokes fun at the church, but the storyteller, Panfilo, precedes his tale with a pious preamble: "It is fitting that everything done by man should begin with the marvelous and holy name of Him...I intend to start with one of His marvelous deeds, so that when we have heard about it, out faith in Him will remain as firm as ever" (25). Panfilo goes on to tell the story of the worst sinner in Europe who becomes a saint merely by duping his confessor. At the end of the tale, Christians worship the false saint, and Panfilo concludes with another tribute to God. The effect is hilarious. The tale makes religion a farce, but the opening and closing take religion very seriously. This disguises the biting satire of the story. By framing stories with prayers, the contents within the frame seem less irreverent. The second story fits in the same framework, as Neifile tells a story to promote "His infallible truth so that with firmer conviction we may practice what we believe" (38). She goes on to tell the story of a Jew named Abraham, who converts to Christianity after he observes the wickedness of the clergy in Rome. Abraham finds Rome to be "a forge for the Devil's work" and is amazed that "in spite of all this...your religion grows and becomes brighter and more illustrious" (42). The incredible corruption of the church, coupled with its success, baffles Abraham enough that he has to conclude that God must favor the Christians if they are allowed to be so evil. Like Panfilo, Neifile concludes her tale by praising God.

The third story also focuses on religion, but this time the main characters are a Saracen and a Jew. The Jewish lender, Melchisedech, posits Saladin with the question of which of the three religions is the one true religion. Saladin is portrayed as wise. The story shows tolerance to the Saracens through the characterization.

The fourth story returns to the Christian world, as a monk and an abbott succumb to "the warm desires of the flesh" (48). The two holy men sleep with a girl and invite her back for sex time and again.

Boccaccio avoids attacking the doctrine of the church, but he exposes certain realities of human nature. Those employed by the church cannot escape themselves, despite their appearances. They are as fallible as the peasants. In "The Author's Conclusion," Boccaccio defends his stories against protest by saying, "A corrupt mind never understands a word in a healthy way" (804). The addendum to The Decameron acts as a line of defense for the author from overzealous Christians who he predicts will take offense at the stories and accuse him of "taking too much license in writing these tales" (802). He points out that "my stories run after no one asking to be read," and implies that the sensitive reader should avoid the book altogether. The conclusion has comical elements as well. He gets a final poke at friars, saying, "they all smell a little like goats" (806). Boccaccio manages to make his point while keeping the tone light.
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42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Which Translation?, December 16, 2004
By 
Diego Banducci (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
The translation that you choose will have an impact upon your enjoyment of any work written in a foreign language. In the case of The Decameron, the translations recommended by "The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation" are those by (1) G.H. McWilliams and (2) Bondanella and Musa.

I purchased the McWilliams translation and found it to be enjoyable, although slightly wooden. There were also several howlers (e.g., addressing the women in the group as "Delectable Ladies.")

There's a 100+ page introduction, which I found to be overly academic and tedious. This is, as far as most readers are concerned, a fun book to read; the introduction should not detract from that experience.

This volume has extensive endnotes at the end of the book. Most of them are of little interest to the general reader and add nothing to one's enjoyment of the stories. Since they are short, and given modern editing technology, they could just as easily been included as footnotes at the bottom of the page on which they appear, which would have been more convenient. (Inexplicably, the notes to the Introduction are footnotes.)

The book is bawdy, but not obscene. McWilliams, justifiably I think, is of the opinion that certain passages are misogynistic and homophobic, which seemed to me to be correct. The latter is odd, because Florence during the Renaissance was notorious throughout Europe for its large homosexual population (most of its great artists reputedly were gay). Forewarned is forearmed.

I have not read the Bondanella and Musa translation, but McWilliams (who appears to be remarkably fair) speaks well of it in his Second Preface. Based upon the foregoing, I would choose it instead.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This translation is terrible, July 3, 2011
By 
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This is not a review of Boccaccio, just this translation that originated in 1886. The 19th century English literature is fantastic. There is no reason that a translation of the bawdy Boccaccio should not reflect the wit of Austin, the 3 dimensions of Dickens or the wonder of Melville and so many others.

I am sorry to say that this translation, unless you like the faux archaic touch such as, "Thou doth protest, prithily, my lady," just plainly sucks. To call it prim and proper is not enough, it is downright prissy.

Of course, the price on Kindle is wonderful but it is not a bargain.

If you can suggest another Kindle translation, please reply.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, February 6, 2011
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I had to buy this book for my history class and dreaded having to read it. When I did get around to reading it, I found the stories ridiculously funny. I think that it's a great read for adults who still need some bedtime stories :] Or anyone else looking for some humor on dark days.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant favorite, December 27, 2010
This review is from: The Decameron (Signet Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
This is one of the most brilliant books that I have read. It veritably pulses with life and vigor, love and a little tragedy, all laced over with wit and humor. In short, the complete human experience is contained within these pages. I was first introduced to it in a Renaissance History class in college, and it surprised all of us. We weren't used to actually enjoying and wanting to read more of a book for a history class. Unfortunately, we only read excerpts from it for the class, but I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought it. After that, it was mentioned in several different history and English classes I was in, and authors such as Chaucer, Christine de Pizan, and Baldassare Castiglione reference Boccaccio in their most important works. In the historical context of the book, it is easy to see why Boccaccio (author of On Famous Women, the first book of its kind) took it upon himself to write a book that is dedicated to cheering women who had survived the plague. It is overwhelmingly lighthearted, with just the right amount of tension for the more serious stories. It would be difficult to find a more enjoyable read.
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The Decameron (Signet Classics)
The Decameron (Signet Classics) by Giovanni Boccaccio (Mass Market Paperback - December 7, 2010)
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