“The 14th-century Italian book that shows us how to survive coronavirus.” —New Statesman
“The Decameron reads in some ways as a guide to social distancing and self-isolation.” —The New York Times
A masterpiece of classical early Italian prose, The Decameron is a collection of novellas by 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. It is comprised of 100 entertaining tales, told over ten days by a group of seven young women and three young men who are sheltering in a secluded villa just outside Florence in order to avoid the Black Death plague that was afflicting the city in the summer of 1348.
Later regarded as a “Human Comedy” and wildly influential on Renaissance literature, The Decameron is broad in range, alternately tragic and comic, and was a necessary prophylaxis of the time, demonstrating a way to survive the worst days of a pandemic: storytelling while in isolation. Though Boaccaccio’s collection is over 500 years old, the lessons it holds in regards to humanity and survival still ring true today.
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