“Rebhorn deserves our gratitude for an eminently persuasive translation. . . . I celebrate his accomplishment.”—Edith Grossman
The year is 1348. The Black Death has begun to ravage Europe. Ten young Florentines—seven women and three men—escape the plague-infested city and retreat to the countryside around Fiesole. At their leisure in this isolated and bucolic setting, they spend ten days telling each other stories—tales of romance, tragedy, comedy, and farce—one hundred in all. The result, called by one critic "the greatest short story collection of all time" (Leonard Barkan, Princeton University) is a rich and entertaining celebration of the medley of medieval life.
Witty, earthy, and filled with bawdy irreverence, the one hundred stories of The Decameron offer more than simple escapism; they are also a life-affirming balm for trying times. The Decameron is a joyously comic book that has earned its place in world literature not just because it makes us laugh, but more importantly because it shows us how essential laughter is to the human condition.
Published on the 700th anniversary of Boccaccio’s birth, Wayne A. Rebhorn's new translation of The Decameron introduces a generation of readers to this "rich late-medieval feast" in a "lively, contemporary, American-inflected English" (Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University) even as it retains the distinctly medieval flavor of Boccaccio's rhetorically expressive prose.
An extensive introduction provides useful details about Boccaccio's historical and cultural milieu, the themes and particularities of the text, and the lines of influence flowing into and out of this towering monument of world literature.
In time for Giovanni Boccaccio's 700th birthday, Wayne A. Rebhorn, professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin and translator of The Prince and Other Writings by Machiavelli, has provided a strikingly modern translation of Boccaccio's medieval Italian classic. Fleeing Florence and the plague of 1348, 10 young men and women retreat to a country estate, "surrounded by meadows and marvelous gardens," where they spend their days in leisure while the Black Death ravages the city. To fill their time, and affirm life in the face of death, they tell stories: on each of 10 days, every character spins a tale on a theme. Thus, there are 100 stories in total, which range in tone from tragic to triumphant and from pious to bawdy, and which serve as monuments to the rich medieval life and society that the plague was to fundamentally alter. Rebhorn's translation is eminently readable and devoid of the stilted, antiquated speech associated with the classics. Indeed, at times the translator's rendering of Boccaccio's Italian into contemporary idiomatic American English feels jarring: "my cheesy-weesy, sweet honeybun of a wife." But on the whole, his translation's accessibility allows for the timeless humanity of the work to shine through. The Decameron affords a fascinating view into the lost world of late-medieval Italy, and the variety and volume of tales offers us a refuge and relief from the tragedies that haunt our own world.