The Decameron (Penguin Classics)

The Decameron - G.H. McWilliam, Giovanni Boccaccio These are 100 short stories and like the earlier Arabic 1001 Nights or Chaucer's later Canterbury Tales told within a frame: Ten Florentine nobles, seven women and three men, flee the city to the country to escape the Black Plague for ten days. Each in turn is established as Queen or King for the day and sets a theme, then all tell a tale. This is fabulous stuff. One of those classics that isn't like eating your veggies, but having a feast. The stories are not just entertaining in themselves, laden with wit and irreverent humor, but are great pictures of life in Medieval Europe. Not often pretty pictures to our eyes--as when they show us misogynist or anti-Semitic aspects--although in neither case is it one-sided, and there are positive depictions of Jews, Muslims and women. Taken altogether, it gives us the bad, the good, the ugly, and only once in a while does it bring a modern sensibility up short with a Huh??? The book is nigh unkillable--although some translations can be rather dire. With Chaucer there might be good reason for reading if not the original Middle English, then something that hews close to it--but there's no excuse imo for "doth" and "verily" in a translation from the Italian, so you might want to scan some of the editions to make sure you find the prose amenable before purchase.