Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Boccaccio's Decameron teaches us how to survive the credit crunch

from The Guardian

Giovanni Boccaccio's masterpiece, set in far darker times than our own, is a hymn to the physical joys of life.

Giovanni Boccaccio's 14th-century literary masterpiece The Decameron may hold the recipe to defy these troubled times. Boccaccio's collection of 100 stories told over 10 days is set against the backdrop of a crisis that puts today's credit problems in perspective: the black death. He begins it with a harrowing piece of reportage on the plague in his city, Florence, describing how the disease spread across Europe in 1347-8, killing rich and poor alike in such terrible numbers that bodies littered the streets, the sick were shunned by their families, and funeral rites were abandoned. He paints a picture of a society on the brink of absolute disappearance - would everyone in Florence die? Everyone in Europe?

The moral is that people can be happy, prosperous and creative even in the worst of times: nothing quenches the life force.

Jonathan Jones

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