• Books that Matter: The Decameron

  • By: Kristina Olson
  • Narrated by: Kristina Olson
  • Length: 5 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (144 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A deadly plague ravages the land; so, a small band of people flee to the country. There, in relative seclusion and safety, they entertain one another with vivid stories that reimagine life and its possible and impossible outcomes. Sounds like a story from today? Think again. It was actually written more than 600 years ago, in a time and place so different - yet so similar - to ours.

A classic of medieval Italian literature, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron still matters for us today. And Boccaccio scholar Kristina Olson reveals why in the 10 lectures of Books that Matter: The Decameron. Here, you’ll listen between the lines of stories that range from hopeful and spiritual to cynical and bawdy. You’ll hear words turn a sinner into a saint, brutes made noble through the power of love, and riches rediscovered on the open seas. You’ll find love in disguise, greed transformed into generosity, and danger staved off with wit. You’ll meet women who rewrite the laws of pleasure and tyrants who suffer in silence.

True, the times in which we live are vastly different from Boccaccio’s. Yet by connecting our own experiences with the stories told by this medieval band, you’ll learn why the Decameron is proof positive that, by listening to the past, we can give voice to the present.

©2021 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2021 Audible Originals, LLC.

About the Creator and Performer

Kristina Olson is Associate Professor of Italian at George Mason University where she has taught Italian language, literature, and cinema since 2005. She earned her PhD in Italian from Columbia University. Dr. Olson is the author of Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio, and the Literature of History and several articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. She is the coeditor of Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome; Boccaccio 1313–2013; and Approaches to Teaching Dante’s "Divine Comedy", 2nd Edition. In addition to her current role as president of the American Boccaccio Association, Dr. Olson has served as vice president of the Dante Society of America.

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What listeners say about Books that Matter: The Decameron

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

I had looked forward to a series of lectures on a work I've long meant to read. I tried to overlook some grammatical howlers ( "... As a student of the Middle Ages, the book ..." ) and clunky verbiage. I forgave the tired, simplistic opening hook comparing the black death to the covid pandemic. There are some interesting nuggets. But the narrator's loud, sharp, almost panicked inhalations after almost every sentence became unbearable. It was free with Audible Plus -- I would have been outraged if I'd paid for it.

30 people found this helpful

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A Painful Experience

I thought I was being offered the opportunity to listen to portions of the Decameron. Unfortunately I was offered only a grating, substandard commentary that, as it droned on, increased my frustration with the delay in getting to the Decameron itself. Though I was willing to subject myself to some commentary in order to get to the content of the classic work itself, the boring drivel just kept going on and on and on... Finally I looked more closely and discovered this whole offering was ONLY this maudlin carrying-on, so I stopped, marked the "book" as 'finished' and removed it from my library. I hope the time I've taken to warn others will save some from my bad experience. Comparing the current COVID "pandemic" to what Florence experienced in the Plague and "ignoring the quantitative" differences... what can I say except that was the final pain point where I bailed.

16 people found this helpful

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Great summary of themes and inquiries

Olson’s work is perceptive and relevant, exposing so much more of the meat on the bones of this seminal piece. I’ve studied The Decameron in college and have always enjoyed the depth of storytelling it offers, but because it’s steeped in a time and cultural so different from our own modernity, it is full of themes commenting on society that is left still a mystery to its true intention and meaning. Olson shows us the deep roots that gender, sexuality, and concepts of fortune and worthiness that help us understand the common fibers of where society was then, and the implications they have on our current and future world.
I appreciated that Olson unveiled theory of meaning alongside the open questions that will always remain. She both summarized the majority of the stories, the frame narrative, and helped to show the common threads leading to the deeper meaning. Her lively voice is engaging, and the ways she recalls previous themes is done with skill and amusement. I was thoroughly entertained and has kept me thinking days after.
One improvement would be having Olson read the full story as well. I would have loved reading it from her after this book.

7 people found this helpful

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NOT The Decameron

I thought I was downloading the classic book titled The Decameron. Not so! This is a woman lecturing about the book.

6 people found this helpful

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About ‘The Decameron’ but not really ‘The Decameron’

Fair enough, but I don’t really need a lecture about the book when I’d just thought I’d hear the book.

3 people found this helpful

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Very Enjoyable

I appreciated this introduction to The Decameron by an expert. She kept it accessible and lively. I especially liked the moments where the author drew connections and contrasts to our current pandemic conditions.

1 person found this helpful

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Misleading

Basically a book report about a book. I thought there would be discussion about the book and also the ability to listen to the book … not so.

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An Informative and entertaining introduction to a classic

This is an informative and entertaining guide to a classic which finds new relevance in the Covid era. The balance between detail and overview is perfect for a wide audience and provides many insights into the historical context of Boccaccio’s masterpiece and the universal appeal of these ageless stories on the human condition. Congratulations on bringing the diverse tapestry of the Fourteenth century to vivid life. We look forward to many more offerings in the Books That Matter series and from this author.

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Surprisingly interesting

When I started listening I had never heard of the Decameron. I was brought in by the title “Books that matter” and once I started listening and learned it was just about one specific book I considered quitting. I am glad I kept listening because the analysis was interesting and the narrator provided engaging summaries of the tales. If you enjoy literary analysis and learning about classic literature I would recommend listening to this.

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Absolutely brilliant

I read The Decameron at the beginning of 2020 quarantine and loved it. This series elevated that important reading experience to the next level for me. The tone is accessible and entertaining, but her deep knowledge of the book, historical context, and original language is evident throughout. Insightful connections to the COVID pandemic. Mind blown.

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