Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Decameron

Over the past ten years my reading habits have changed. Where as once I would force myself to finish every book I picked up before I started another, now I readily put down a book if I get bored with it. This means I tend to have multiple books on my night stand at the same time. I have one or two technical books, a light piece of fiction and then usually a couple pieces of more ambitious fiction.

One book that I've been reading on and off again over the last year is Giovanni Boccaccio’s collection of short stories called The Decameron. The stories are told by a group of ten young Florentines who have taken refuge from the black plague in a villa outside the city. There are one hundred stories in total with each story teller telling one story a day over ten consecutive days. So far I’ve only read the first twenty so I have a long way to go.

Even though Boccaccio was writing in the mid 14th century the stories are wonderfully accessible for a modern reader. The stories I’ve read so far center on love, fortune and twists of fate; all very timeless themes. Part of the wonder of the book is the empathy you feel with these people who lived over five hundred years ago. Their lives may have been very different from ours but they are unmistakably human.

If you are interested in pre Renaissance Italy or just reading some great stories I highly recommend the book. You can explore more about the book and the period at this great web site from Brown University.

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