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The Decameron (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – December 7, 2010
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About the Author
Mark Musa is a professor at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. A former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, Musa is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Mark Musa and Peter Bondanella are professors at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. Mark Musa, a former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Peter Bondanella, a former Younger Humanist and Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has published, among other works, Machiavelli and the Art of Renaissance History and Federico Fellini: Essays in Criticism. He is coeditor of The Dictionary of Italian Literature and The Portable Machiavelli.
Top Customer Reviews
But this framing technique of ten narrators is hardly the point. The star of this work are the tales told by these sequestered characters. These 100 stories are chillingly sneaky in how they will mess with your mind. At first the tales will appear shocking, overtly sexual, or even knee-slappingly funny. (Think "Monty Python.") But in fact, like Aesop, the great Italian prose author Boccaccio tucks an ambiguous, gnawing moral into each tale. You will laugh at first, and then the bittersweet truth of each story's lesson will zap you.
The true brillance of "The Decameron" is that it is kaleidoscopic in nature: while all the tales are somewhat similar to one another, each story is truly unique in how it aligns its characters, its structure, its action, and its moral. The basic ingredients are similar in dozens of stories, and yet their outcomes prove to be wholly different. So instead of getting "re-runs," you the reader wind up in a quicksand-like universe where some good-hearted characters are punished, others rewarded, and some scoundrely characters are quashed while other soar.
It is Boccaccio's humorous (yet ultimately grim) portrait of our herky-jerky, you-never-know world, where a person can never be sure of his destiny despite his conduct, that makes this work brilliant. Behind the ribaldry and the chuckles, this late-medieval author proves that our world (sometimes benevolent, sometimes cruel, but always inscrutable) is, indeed, nothing but a human comedy.
Boccaccio indulges in a popular form of satire against the foul and corrupt members of the fourteenth century clergy--one of the ten actually admits that it's "too easy" to pick on such scoundrels. With humor and the power of shame he attacks both the hypocrisy of the clergy and the hypocrisy toward which the Catholic Church's sexually repressive laws drove people. Here we find a group of nuns fighting over the sexual favors of the convent gardener; there a wily cleric indulges his prurient urges by convincing a foolish woman that he is the Angel Gabriel; still another adulteress cows her angry husband by claiming he is not enough to satisfy her lust--is it fair that she throw the surplus to the dogs?Read more ›
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.
Great modern translation.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great collection of stories. There's something here for everyone, from humor to historical tidbits to the off-color. Read morePublished 1 month ago by QS
I actually have not started reading this book. So I can't fill in all the info you have requested.Published 2 months ago by tom
I can't believe how entertaining and easy it can be to read a many hundreds year old book. I usually don't like 800 page books because I get bored somewhere after 300 pages. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Peter Stagnitta
Excellent. Very funny and lively. Brings the 14th Century back to life. The people are just as real as you and mePublished 5 months ago by Yan Gertsoyg