When the men were off somewhere, he would come visiting their wives more solicitously than any priest they’d ever had before…
Penguin’s Little Black Classics collections starts off with a collection of four short stories, or “bawdy tales” as the black cover blurb suggests. The stories are taken from Boccaccio’s The Decameron, translated by Peter Hainsworth.
These four tales are the first piece of writing by Boccaccio I’ve ever read. Our new pal Gio was an important fourteenth century Renaissance humanist Italian, whose poetry served as inspiration for a number of Chaucer’s work. So, a pretty good place to start!
As for the stories themselves, I genuinely enjoyed the first three. I read these tucked up in bed, drinking a cup of Pukka’s equivalent of Sleepy Time tea, winding down for the evening and looking forward to a bit of literary mischief.
Ricciardo da Chinzica loses his wife is about a judge who doesn’t bang his wife enough, Rosie and the Priest features a character called WILLY WELCOME and the first one Andreuccio da Perugia’s Neopolitan Adventures is about Andreuccio being incredibly unlucky.
Some mild spoilers ahead. The last one Patient Griselda is this weird story where a husband tests his wife’s patience by subjecting her to loads of cruelty which she just takes like “OKAYYY”, ending with him after about TWENTY YEARS going “a-hey I was joking all along, surprise here’s your child we took from you, now they’re an adult!”. My partner Tim, who actually read this book before me, got to the end of this story and went “well that was bullshit”. I think he summed our feelings up very succinctly. I think it’s more because we both instantly thought “bin all men, especially this one” rather than thought it wasn’t a good piece of writing.
So, I think 75% enjoyable is a pretty strong start for the first book. It’s made me want to read more Boccaccio, despite poor old Griselda’s glum fate.
I’m going to keep track of diversity in authors and literature throughout this. There may be a graph. Sorry.
Type of literature: Short stories