The Decameron by Giovanni Bocaccio has always been something I knew about but had not actually read. As an undergraduate, I once wrote about it within the context of a paper on storytelling. Because it was an odd geeky challenge in my English department in those days to write about things you had never read. And get away with it.
The work contains 100 stories told over ten nights by ten citizens of Florence who have escaped to a countryside villa to escape the plague then ravaging the city. This little volume, the first in the Penguin Little Black Classics collection, contains four of those stories, described by the publisher as "bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women."
Funny stories and much earthier than I would have ever imagined. I especially appreciate the clever women, lusty and practical, and their sometimes transactional and self-serving views of carnal love. The boldness of their sexuality. I was not expecting this.
“You shouldn’t have married, if you liked studying law more than studying your wife. Not that I thought you were much of a judge. You seemed more like a crier calling out holy days and fast days when sex was prohibited, you knew them so well, not to mention fast days and overnight vigils. Let me tell you that if you had given as many days off to the labourers working your lands as you did to the one who should have been working my little plot you’d not have harvested one grain of corn.”
This little volume did exactly what I hoped from these teaser volumes - it introduced me to a seminal (pun intended) text and made me want to read more of it. And pointed me to supports from the Decameron Web from Brown University. Incredible depth of information there.