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The Decameron: Selected Tales

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While the Black Death rages through fourteenth-century Florence, a group of young people retreat to the healthful air of the countryside and amuse themselves by telling tales of romance and adventure. This is the premise of Boccaccio's Decameron, a landmark of early Renaissance literature and one of the world's great story collections. 
Vast in scope, teeming with colorful characters, and rich in worldly wisdom, these 25 tales from the original 100 encompass a variety of genres — folktales, ancient myths, fables, and anecdotes ranging from earthy satires of hypocritical clergy to gripping tales of murder and revenge and stories of passionate love. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Keats drew upon Boccaccio's masterpiece for inspiration, and the grand old storyteller’s fables continue to captivate modern readers.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1353

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About the author

Giovanni Boccaccio

731 books459 followers
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian author and poet, a friend and correspondent of Petrarch, and an important Renaissance humanist in his own right and author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular. Boccaccio is particularly notable for his dialogue, of which it has been said that it surpasses in verisimilitude that of just about all of his contemporaries, since they were medieval writers and often followed formulaic models for character and plot.

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5 stars
203 (26%)
4 stars
294 (38%)
3 stars
194 (25%)
2 stars
58 (7%)
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16 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 71 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
451 reviews181 followers
August 20, 2021
2021-08-20 Just finished the book, finally.
The few extra stories toward the end of the book that I just read were not as positive as the earlier ones. By that I mean, I did not think they were as realistic &/or promoted good values for healthy and productive lives. One was downright awful, in that it tried to justify a "great end" by using absolutely terrible means.

I don't think I am going to downgrade my overall rating because of this. It is still a classic worth reading... but just not as good as I initially thought.

2020-09-05 - I have read 15-25 of the stories. The edition I bought only has about 30 of the top (rated) stories, out of the 100 total in the orig. book.

I found the stories mostly really interesting, fun, educational, and humorous.
But also sad, since there was so much deviousness going on in many/most. I don't like that aspect in life. And some of the morals did not seem right.

I would compare this book a bit to Aesop's Fables, only usually much bawdier. Quite a bit of sex in this. Amazing, considering it is 650+ years old.

I saw one person review this who said it was "anti-women" or "anti-women's rights" or "anti-feminist." That seemed totally off to me. Often, the stories show the women far smarter, better in control of their lives, and getting the upper hand in relations with their spouses or just men in general. None of the first 10 stories or so that I read were the women looked down upon, except perhaps by some idiot men. Some later stories I read, they were not drawn so positively. I have not finished the book I'm reading, let alone the full original book, so therefore do not know the statistics on all the 100 stories, but could it really change tone/focus that much? Possibly I guess.

The book was written to entertain, and I got why it is considered a classic - it sure does that... even 7 centuries later! Of the stories I read, I thought many had valuable life lessons with good morals, or fables. Recommended.
Profile Image for Michelle.
409 reviews87 followers
Read
March 27, 2022
Was this a dry and boring classic? No, it’s pretty spicy, actually.

Do a majority of the characters belong in horny jail? Heck yes, I can’t give you a modern equivalent of a book that is as horny as this one. It’s scary how sexual a great number of these stories get (and often in really scandalous ways, even for modern standards).

Are many stories sexist and do the female characters feel like oversexualized cis male fantasies? You bet.

Can you learn anything from the frame narrative or the 100 stories told throughout these ten days? Not really. Many have a moral message, but it’s all pretty shallow and regurgitated stuff.

Despite everything that is wrong with this book, is it so out there and bad that it’s fun again? Absolutely.

Was I entertained? For sure. It’s trashy and incredibly extra, and I hate everything about it but in a fun way.

I don’t know what I expected going into this collection, but I don’t regret picking it up. I had a great time and learned something for my literature studies, so what more could I want.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,266 reviews4,356 followers
December 6, 2016
This is an excerpt from The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, in which a series of ten tales are told each day for ten days. As I understand it, this excerpt chooses one tale for each of the ten days.

These are incredibly readable, and cleverly constructed little stories. The blurb on the back sums it up well - Bawdy, outrageous, sometimes tragic or wise, these stories offer a tremendously entertaining view of society, religion and, above all, human nature.

This is definitely one of the better Penguin 60s Classics I have read so far.
Profile Image for Fábio.
237 reviews17 followers
April 26, 2019
Que edição incrível da Cosac Naify! O papel, a tipografia, a mancha e as iluminuras buscam recuperar o que era esse livro quando foi publicado, na Idade Média, em pleno surto da peste. É uma verdadeira obra de arte.

A seleção das chamadas “novelas” que compõem essa antologia é bastante variada quanto aos narradores e aos temas, o que permite formar um juízo bastante razoável sobre o Decamerão. Mais que isso: as dez histórias selecionadas são suficientes para ilustrar que nós, quase 7 séculos após a publicação desse livro, rimos e choramos e traímos e sofremos e amamos e matamos pelas mesmas coisas. Há mais de 600 anos já éramos hipócritas a criticar outros hipócritas.

Afinal de contas, nós já éramos humanos. A pergunta que fica é: se é que ainda somos, até quando seremos?
Profile Image for João Moura.
Author 4 books22 followers
August 16, 2016
Decameron significa "dez dias" que é o tempo que dez jovens inventados por Boccaccio ficam numa casa do campo para fugir à peste negra entretendo-se a contar histórias uns aos outros para passar o tempo.
Os contos surgem na primeira pessoa, como que dirigidos a nós, sendo alguns contos populares passados de povos em povos ao longo do tempo adaptados por Boccaccio e outros supostamente criados pelo autor (sem se saber qual é o qual).
Quem viu o filme de Pasolini vai ficar desapontado por só encontrar 2 contos no livro da colecção RTP, mas vai ficar certamente contente com a qualidade de todos os contos e do livro em geral, uma obra de relevo interessante mesmo passados 6 séculos...
Profile Image for Anna Raquel.
152 reviews
September 13, 2016
Podemos rir das mesmas coisas que as pessoas riam há 660 anos atrás (mas sem peste).
Profile Image for Martin Hernandez.
799 reviews25 followers
March 29, 2014
Quizá ésta sea la colección de cuentos más famosa del mundo, después de "Las Mil y Una Noches". Escrito hacia 1350, justo al final de la Edad Media, el libro está integrado por cien cuentos que diez protagonistas relatan cada noche, mientras dura su retiro en una villa donde se refugiaron de la peste. Cada uno de estos personajes, siete mujeres y tres hombres, tienen una personalidad bien definida, que sirve para ilustrar los distintos temas que se tocan en cada cuento, donde encontramos ingenio, reflexión, amor, erotismo (aunque, a pesar de lo que se cree, no es el tema principal de la obra), virtud y fortuna, todos ellos abordados de una manera interesante y divertida. Para el maridaje musical recomiendo, por supuesto, música del Renacimiento, pues aunque el Decamerón es estrictamente medieval, al ser el primer libro escrito en italiano, se le considera precursor del Renacimiento. Un disco muy fácil de conseguir, que va bien como fondo musical es "Songs from the Labyrinth" de STING y Edin KARAMAZOV
Profile Image for tiago..
312 reviews101 followers
May 1, 2021
Esta coleção de novelas do Decameron , aqui selecionadas e traduzidas por Esther de Lemos, surpreendeu pela legibilidade, mesmo 700 anos passados de serem escritos. A premissa base é simples: um grupo de dez pessoas, sete mulheres e três homens, fogem para o campo para escapar a peste que na cidade grassava, e a cada um dos dez dias que lá passam, cada uma dessas dez pessoas contará uma história para passar o tempo, a la As Mil E Uma Noites ; e nestas histórias de tudo haverá, do trágico ao cavaleiresco e até mesmo ao licencioso. Acima de tudo é leve, é divertido, não obriga a pensar muito; é um daqueles clássicos que, parece-me, nunca aborrecerá.
Profile Image for Lavinia Baicu.
143 reviews14 followers
October 1, 2020
"Poveşti din Decameron" este o colecție de nuvele scrisă de Giovanni Boccaccio între 1348 şi 1353. Prezenta antologie reprezintă un extras al celor mai populare poveşti din lucrarea originală "Decameronul", o operă medievală alegorică care descrie societatea secolului XIV (nu foarte diferitā față de cea de acum 😁) cu un umor excepţional. Cartea a fost considerată "periculoasă pentru moravuri", sfidând toate canoanele vremii, deşi autorul a descris tipologiile umane într-o notă cât se poate se realistă.
Profile Image for Robert Tostevin.
36 reviews
July 24, 2017
The complete Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, set in 1348, consists of 100 stories told by 10 people to each other over an imaginary 10 day period whilst they seek refuge from the plague ravaging Florence. This book takes 32 of those stories for re-telling.

Reading a 14th century classic, originally written in Italian, means that the translator is always going to be key.

I found Peter Hainsworth's translation on the whole very readable. Being so old you can expect the writing styles of 650 years ago to be very different to today's narratives. Indeed you get a sense of this with the subject matter that is discussed and the sentence and paragraph structures that Peter Hainsworth crafts in his translation. To me, the way he did this, lent an air of authenticity and I felt it got me closer to what I imagine the original style to be. Peter Hainsworth rightly refrains from too much 'modern speak' or 'modern slang' which again made it feel more real to me and closer to Boccaccio’s original prose - whether this is true or not I cannot tell as I'm no scholar of 14th century Italian.

Looking at the selected stories told in this collection is intriguing. They are windows into how 14th century people viewed the world. Their lives, loves, lusts and views on the Church were a real joy to read. At times some of the story lines echoed Chaucer's Canterbury tales (there is some debate as to whether these 2 books actually influence each other at the time). Some of the storylines wouldn't have been out of place in a Shakespeare play (which would have been written 200+ years later) so its interesting to see the direct line of development and continuity between Boccaccio to Shakespeare and on to us in the 21st century - so to paraphrase Mr Spock- in a word this book was fascinating!

The official book description describes this as "Bawdy, moving, hilarious and reflective" I would agree it's a rollicking good read.
Profile Image for Rita.
580 reviews69 followers
May 17, 2017
Decameron (vocábulo com origem no grego antigo: deca, "dez", hemeron, "dias", "jornadas") é uma colecção de cem novelas escritas por Giovanni Boccaccio entre 1348 e 1353.
A obra é considerada um marco literário na ruptura entre a moral medieval, em que se valorizava o amor espiritual, e o início do realismo, iniciando o registo dos valores terrenos, que veio redundar no humanismo; nele não mais o divino, mas a natureza dita o móvel da conduta do homem.
A estrutura do Decameron, obra-prima de Boccaccio, é formada por um conjunto de cem novelas, divididas em dez "jornadas" - onde dez jovens narradores se revezam em torno de um tema no qual cada um deve expor uma história que seja com este relacionada.

Nesta edição de luxo da Cosac Naify, com ilustrações magnificas de Alex Cerveny, apenas 10 dessas novelas são seleccionadas.
Tem uma breve introdução, sem grandes pretensões interpretativas, mas que acentua os aspectos medievais do livro.

É uma selecção de novelas que me soube a pouco. O Decameron completo já está na minha lista de leituras a fazer.

1 – Novela de Ciappelleto da Trava - ★★★★★
2 – Novela de Andreuccio da Perugia - ★★★★★
3 – Novela de Masetto da Lamorecchio - ★★★★☆
4 – Novela de frei Alberto da Imola - ★★★★★
5 – Novela de Nastagio degli Onesti - ★★★★★
6 – Novela de Federigo degli Alberighi - ★★★★★
7 – Novela de Guido Cavalcanti - ★★★★☆
8 – Novela de Peronella -★★★★★
9 – Novela de Calandrino - ★★★★☆
10 – Novela de Natan do Catai - ★★★★★
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,984 reviews1,084 followers
November 1, 2020
Madison Street west of Chicago's Loop was a run-down area when I was a kid, but it had some good used bookstores. I'd been travelling by bus and train to the Loop since junior high, often with friends to see a movie at one of the big theatres, but increasingly as I aged to go to the bookstores. It was in one of them, a cavernous place, that I picked this title up, having heard of Boccaccio in reference to Chaucer.

Being a poor kid and having only the money I could earn from doing extraordinary work at home or by shovelling neighbors'walks or cutting their lawns, buying even a used paperback was a major decision. I'd often spend hours in the stores, reading introductions, prefaces and cover notes in order to make an intelligent choice. Sometimes I actually read entire books this way. The Boccaccio stories, while acceptably highbrow, promised to be sexy, so this was not too hard of a choice. Unfortunately, they weren't quite sexy enough--not as good as 'Fanny Hill' or 'Candy' in any case.
Profile Image for André.
97 reviews14 followers
October 31, 2016
Essa edição, quase uma obra de carte, foi feita com muito esmero pela Cosac Naify, que combinou capa dura, lindas e divertidas ilustrações inspiradas nos manuscritos de séculos atrás e papel grosso, que também remete aos antigos manuscritos.

A tradução, assim como a ótima introdução, feita por Maurício Santana Dias, professor da USP, é muito superior às feitas por Raul de Polillo e Torrieri Guimarães, que infestaram o mercado brasileiro e provavelmente povoam a biblioteca de seus pais e avós (mais informações aqui: http://naogostodeplagio.blogspot.com....).

Quando às histórias em si, elas são de leitura fácil e, em razão de terem sido escrito há quase sete séculos, certamente irão surpreender o leitor insuspeito em razão de seu conteúdo libidinoso. Lembre-se, no entanto, que esta edição contém apenas 10 da 100 novelas do livro original. Para aqueles que viram o filme de Pasolini, algumas das histórias do filme podem ser encontradas neste volume.
Profile Image for John Isles.
243 reviews4 followers
November 25, 2021
A selection of stories, one from each of the ten days during which ten young Florentines taking refuge from the plague each tell one another one story per day. I read the complete collection years ago, and upon re-reading these tales I found I hardly remembered any of them, so they were as enjoyable as the first time around.
104 reviews
December 28, 2021
Leerlo seguido se hace bastante pesado. Es mejor intercalar otras lecturas. Aunque no es apto para la mirada feminista, tiene alguna narración divertida
Profile Image for Rex Libris.
1,087 reviews2 followers
March 16, 2014
The Decameron was supposed to quite ribald in its day, and I suppose it was. by today's standards it is quite tame, and only suggestive of events, not explicit.

A group of 10 young people flee Florence because of the Plague. To entertain themselves in their exile each they each tell a story on that day's given topic, and each gets to pick a topic. Hence the title Decameron because of the 10 stories of 10 days.

As mentioned supra, the stories can be quite ribald, as they often deal with spouses cheating and abusing one other. Nevertheless, others are of a more noble sort, where the protagonists overcome bad fortune to achieve happiness.
September 4, 2014
Hm, this is a book from my school list and this is the first time I express opinion about a book from different century :D.

The edition I read was in my language (Bulgarian) and it contains selected tails from the whole enormous book, so the story unfolds in 10 days and in the original edition there are I think 101 tales about the world in 14th century. It was quiet fun to read some of them but I was astonished about the violence then. There were staggering stories about women who were raped and spied by their husbands. I really enjoyed the story about the Devil and the Hell haha.

Profile Image for Joann.
65 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2008
This is a great read along the lines of Canterberry tales but be warned some of the stories are very naughty
Profile Image for Laura Hoffman Brauman.
2,499 reviews34 followers
July 10, 2022
If you think classics are boring or full of prim and proper people, you should pick this one up and you will change your mind. The description on the book calls this “bawdy and hilarious” - and that covers it well. The Decameron was written in the 1300’s and is essentially a collection of short stories. The framework is that we have a group of 10 young people who flee Florence during the plague and quarantine themselves. To pass the time, each day, each person tells the group a story - 10 stories/day, 10 days for 100 stories in the full edition. The edition I read is a collection of 32 of the tales, but based on these I definitely want to go back and read the full edition. These are fun, readable, often hilarious, and often racy. I would have said that if students were given books like this to read in high school, they would be much more open to reading the classics . . . .but most of the content in here would not be considered appropriate for a high school classroom. In the author’s conclusion, he addresses his language and topics with a quote that would be equally appropriate to today’s efforts at book banning. “No word has ever been understood in a wholesome way by a corrupt mind. And virtuous words do not change the corrupt for the better, any more than words that are not so virtuous pervert a mind that is morally sound, just as mud does not pollute the rays of the sun, or the dirt of earth the beauties of heaven.”
Profile Image for Deirdre.
93 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2021
Cuando comenzó esta pandemia, el primer libro que se me vino a la cabeza fue éste.

Son una colección de cien cuentos cortos, relatados por un grupo de diez jóvenes que se retiran a las afueras de Florencia para protegerse del contagio de la peste que asolaba la ciudad.
están diez días encerrados en una especie de villa, en pleno campo (no como nosotros que aún nos dura el asunto), en los que cada uno es, por así decirlo, dueño de un día, encargándose de proponer actividades para los demás y, llegada la hora de reunirse todos juntos, contar un cuento para matar el tiempo y entretenerse. Algo así como las mil y una noches, pero aquí los cuentos empiezan y acaban en el mismo día.

Los cuentos son de toda índole. Los hay picarones (teniendo en cuenta la época en la que se escribieron, entre 1349 y 1351), con moraleja, dramas... No todos me han gustado por igual. Los hay que más, los hay que menos.

Es un clásico a tener en cuenta, pero no hay que esperar cuentos deslumbrantes o maravillosos. En mi opinión, son normalitos.

Es para leerlo con interrupciones, es decir, ir leyendo los cuentos en días alternos, entre otras lecturas. de seguido, puede resultar pesado.
Profile Image for David.
506 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2020
A group of nobles take up residence in a country villa outside of Florence to escape the black death and keep themselves entertained by telling stories. Ten a day for ten days. They take turns settings the theme. This cycle of 100 stories has was influential to Chaucer and Shakespeare, and some of the stories have provided the plots to theatre, opera, novels, and film.

The tales give us a picture of 14th century European life—presumably from an aristocratic perspective—its attitudes toward wealth, politics, religion, the clergy, marriag, sex, gender, and society. Tales range from erotic, to comedic, to tragic.

I will say that the majority were ribald. In fact so many of the stories were about a man or woman going to great lengths to have extra-marital sex that it became repetitive and I began skipping stories.

In the end I would say that is a good collection to skim for the sake of literary/historical interest, but not worth reading all the way through. I did a lot of skimming and skipping.
Profile Image for Jamile Almeida Silva.
44 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2020
Um livro de um dos criadores da prosa europeia, pupilo de Dante - Giovanni Boccaccio.
Uma edição que traz 10 novelas das 100, dos dez dias de 10 jovens que estão isolados no século XIV por uma pandemia (não era o corona, era a peste!), por isso o nome, Decameron.
Os 10 jovens, para se entreterem durante o isolamento social, contam histórias (não consigo parar de pensar que li esse livro em um momento com uma irônica similaridade!)
Uma comédia feita para chocar! Imagine o que era criticar a igreja, falar de sexo, erotismos, adultério, traições, mentiras, roubos como parte da natureza humana! Pois bem! É isso! Uma amostra que me fez querer ir atrás da obra completa!

Vale a pena ressaltar o primor dessa edição, o cuidado em tentar nos apresentar como foi o original, na diagramação, a arte em aquarela, o dourado da capa, fitilho!!! Coisa linda!
Profile Image for Toni Wyatt.
Author 5 books240 followers
May 21, 2022
This translated work takes place in the year 1348. The Italian city of Florence is ravaged by the plague. Seven women and three men escape to the countryside in an effort to protect their health.

While there, they decide to each take turns as being King or Queen and leading the group to tell each other tales based on a premise the day’s King or Queen comes up with.

So, the entire book is a book of short stories with themes. They contain knights and kings, as well as several different members of the clergy. The tales are for the most part sordid. The clergy is most always portrayed as villainous men who prey on women.

I lost interest after most of the stories ended up being alike. 3 stars

Profile Image for John.
171 reviews
August 25, 2017
What a crazy bunch of stories. These are tales from the 14th century translated from Italian. I read it on a long canoe trip in northern Quebec. Different members of our paddling group read different stories each night around the fire. The version we had was all the so-called "amorous" tales from this collection - 23 in all. Very weird and very funny (most of them) although somewhat formulaic. Lots of nuns, abbesses, deacons, and young, strikingly beautiful rich virginal daughters. It's supposedly a classic. I'm not so sure why but we sure had fun with it around the fire.
Profile Image for milica.
115 reviews15 followers
Read
October 22, 2021
DNF @ 17%

This is only the second time in my life that I did not finish reading a book, I never dnf and always push through but this one was honestly making me feel depressed every time I looked at it or thought about reading it. The thing is, the premise is actually really interesting and I've heard so many good things about it but the writing is simply too dry and way complicated for me to like. It was impossible to get into and I'm learning to let things go, so yeah.
Profile Image for CavyNomes.
60 reviews
December 5, 2021
A quick and funny read. Both funny ha ha and funny peculiar. Enjoyable.

Here's my take:
1. Do people really eat leeks that way?
3. This one is raunchy. Very raunchy.
4. Removing the head from your lover's deceased corpse... romantic.
5. The poor bloke. The poor bird.
6. Short, and funny. Probably my favourite from this collection.
8. This guy's friends aren't very nice at all.
9. I had to google 'dibber'.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Isabel.
259 reviews18 followers
August 28, 2019
part of my 'read the classics' summer. the decameron is considered to be the first 'popular' novel, ie, written in the language of the people. it's interesting - a wealthy group of men and women escape to their country estates in the hope of avoiding the black death. they pass the time by taking turns telling stories. frankly, i got bored after a while...
Profile Image for Jason.
Author 16 books62 followers
July 1, 2018
It's an impressive feat: a series of tales that vary in tone, subject matter, and stance presented through an effective frame narrative about the Black Death. I remember really enjoying this when I read it (or some of it anyway) in college 20-some years ago.
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