This collection of tales is set in 1348, the year of the Black Death. Florence is a dying, corrupt city, described plainly in all of its horrors. Seven ladies and three gentlemen meet in a church and decide to escape from the charnel house of reality by staying in the hills of Fiesole; there they pass the time telling stories for 10 days.
They set up a working arrangement whereby each would be king or queen for a day; each day the ruler commanded a story be told following certain stipulations. Their existence is that of the enchanted medieval dreamworld: a paradise of flowers, ever-flowing fountains, shade trees, soft breezes, where all luxuries of food and drink abound. Virtue reigns along with medieval gentilesse in its finest sense.
The stories they weave, however, differ from their own idyllic sojourn. They tell tales about ordinary people, tales marked by intense realism in a world where dreams and enchanted gardens have little place. Boccaccio draws on the actual geography of the region to bring the stories alive; different social classes are portrayed with their own language and clothing. Within the stories told by his 10 refugees from Florence, the satire often bites deep, Boccaccio's comic mood embracing evil and holiness alike with sympathy and tolerance. Like Chaucer, he is indulgent, exposing moral and social corruption but leaving guilty characters to condemn themselves. In its frank, open-minded treatment of flesh as flesh, its use of paradox, cynicism, and realistic handling of character, this work transcends the medieval period and, going beyond the Renaissance, takes its place as universal art.
(P)1998 Blackstone Audio Inc.
I've tried listening to this several times. The translation, though is in an archaic form of English, and that combined with the narrator's form of reading -- which works well with other books I've heard, like Three Musketeers -- renders the language almost impossible to follow.
A classic selection of droll stories, gets monotonous at times but becomes a nice loooong quiet read and is interesting enough for dusty old literature. However, beware... as my title expresses; the narrator whilst reading in a nice crisp British accent puts cadence and stresses on all the wrong words, running sentences together and most annoyingly asking a question of every single line, sometimes twice in a line by using a question instead of a comma. It gets really irksome and quite nearly ruins the lyrical effect of the already difficult to follow text. Its actually the reason why I keep shutting it in exasperation and head to something easier to listen to. But the content is good and slowly I'll work through it.
Interesting look into history and the lifestyles of Florence
Status of women
The tramslation is the root of the problem
An incredibly poor choice of translation for an audiobook. While I'm sure the syntax is accurate to the Italian, for the modern listener, it is awkward and difficult to follow. Davidson's narration is impecable as usual but not enough to make this even remotely tolerable. I was looking forward to the book and after four attempts, finally gave up frustrated and disappointed. Hopefully a more lucid translation will become available in the near future.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
Like 'The Canterbury Tales', 'The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman', 'The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights', etc., 'The Decameron' is an early masterpiece of European literature. It is one of those books I've previously avoided because I thought it would be stilted and boring. Hells NASTY Bells was I wrong. Boccaccio is funny, flippant, irreverent, libidinous, provocative, inspiring, insulting, crazy and always -- always entertaining.
100 stories told during the the summer of 1348 as the Black Death is ravaging Florence (and Europe). Ten aristocratic youths take to the country to escape the death, stink and bodies of the City and to hang out and amuse themselves on stories of love and adventure and sex and trickery. Bad priests, evil princes, saints, sinners, and various twists and turns paints a detailed picture of Italy from over 660 years ago that seems just as modern and funky as today. Things have certainly changed, but lords and ladies it is incredible just how many things have stayed the same.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
“The Decameron” is a series of stories about the western world’s comic/tragic society. Compiled or written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century, it recalls 100 stories told by seven women and three men over a period of ten days. “The Decameron” pictures humanity as subject to luck, avarice, and lust. Each story implies human relationship is determined by circumstance, and informed by nature. The circumstance is societal position and the moment of experience. Nature is the exigency of the emotive moment.
Written during or after the spread of the Black Death (1346-53), “The Decameron” skewers belief that God determines one’s fate. The stories range from raucous to sedate, to sinful and salacious.
Though some may be entertained by this presentation of “The Decameron”, it is not to this critic’s taste. It is too long. It is delivered monotonously. It elicits little laughter. It ponderously consumes thirty hours of a listener’s time. However, as noted above, it offers a remarkable picture of life in an era of western world’ upheaval (consequence of the black plague) and change (from God’s plan to the unpredictability of nature).
This is a very fun book. Boccaccio brings his stories to life with wonderful dry humor, and I highly recommend it. The narrator does a beautiful job of revealing each joke that really enhances the story. I am using this book as a primary source for a paper at my school and have found it very useful. There are a few things that someone might want to know before deciding on this book however.
First this translation is possibly not the best choice. It comes from the eighteenth century, and can be hard to understand at first. I found that once I got into it that it became much easier to understand, but if you have issues with that you might want to give this book a skip. Also part of one of the stories the translator decided could not be told in English so you sit there listening to the narrator talk in Italian for several minutes.
secondly the opening might also throw you off. Boccaccio opens by explaining who he is writing for (idle women) and the background of his story (which is Florence during the first out break of plague). By modern day standards his regard for women is severely sexist. I got over this by remembering the different attitude of the time period, and that he is cynical about everything else, so why not about women? Yet again if that is not something you can get past this might not be he book for you.
Finally this book contains adult material. The author does not usually state explicit details, but it is there. I would not recommend this for kids, because they will ask you awkward questions. Boccaccio usually refers to sex as taking pleasure, which is not completely explicit in a modern context, but still it is there. Most of the stories do revolve around sex to a certain level, but no specific details are given. On the bright side of this from reading this you should get at least half a dozen sexual innuendos you can source back to medieval Italy, which as a history major I consider serious bragging rights.
The reader has a beautiful voice, but the performance is dull. He might as well be reading a phone book- there's no meaning or interest. I've read the print version (probably a different translation) & the story suffers. I'm very disappointed & will avoid this reader in the future.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
This is, as near as I can tell, the 1886 translation by John Payne. (I do with the audiobook people would be more forthcoming with details like translators.) Payne attempted to write in an intentionally archaic idiom, and the narrator, Frederick Davidson, attempts to read it like a refugee from a Renaissance Faire. At first I found the narrator's affected mannerisms to be really offputting, but eventually I got used to it and even started to appreciate it. I think part of the problem at the outset is that Boccaccio's opening stories are pretty annoying. I felt I was going to be trapped with the most vulgar of the Shakespearian comedies. But whether it was Boccaccio warming up, or whether the stories themselves got better, or whether they just wore me down, eventually I did feel that Boccaccio deserved his reputation as a great literary figure.
The extended prologue telling of the plague that chased our storytellers out of town came as a bit of a revelation. I had not known that such a detailed and explicit account of the plague existed. The fact that Boccaccio plagiarized most of it does not detract from its visceral impact.
I never did get a sense of the ten youths as individual characters; not even the supposedly autobiographical Dioneo. The frame structure Boccaccio used was something of an innovation in its time. While it clearly suggested opportunities for further development, here it mostly serves the purpose of cleansing the palette between stories.
The stories themselves run a wide gamut, but stay within the bounds of what a group of young people would have found entertaining. All the same, they add a dimension of flesh and blood to the people of their time that is mostly lacking from the history books. Would that it were always possible to sample the literature of a time and place to give context to any study of history. Conversely, would that any study of literature be augmented by the contextual history in which it was created. With that in mind, I would merely remind the reader that this is a 14th century Italian book, translated by a Victorian Englishman into Elizabethan English, being read by denizens of the 21st century. It requires a certain amount of effort to transcend all these barriers and enjoy this book as the popular literature it was intended to be.
I've not actually read this translation. Not sure who translated it. I assume some time in the 19th century? Public domain, obviously.
But I love the pseudo-medieval language. If you don't like characters saying "certes" at any possible opportunity, find a different version. If you expect the tale of Alibech and Rustico to be the medieval 50 Shades of Grey, please reach for your x-rated Italian phrasebook.
Fred's got a great voice for this kind of thing. I really enjoyed his Morte D'arthur. His vocal chords must be made of iron.
If the Black Death don't get you...the Decameron mus'
"Disappointing due to archaic translation"
Yes, but not this translation - awful.
Gargantua and Pantagruel (but that's funnier)
Cultured, but obviously cannot hack the translation - who could?
I was looking forward to an unabridged version of this classic, but given that this is a medium-priced rendition, it's extremely disappointing that they did not use a modern translation. Obviously it's cheap out-of-copyright, but even with that, it's unbearable.
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