The Collection

The Time That is Given Us

The Time That is Given Us

My favourite thing about this pandemic (if it is permissible to have a favourite thing about something terrible) is that…

About The Global Decameron

There is something ancient about our current situation. We hunker down in our caves and convents and towns, wondering what is happening to those with wheezes and whether we will join them. Yet we have all of these connectivity devices that allow us to reach one another—so let’s reach. Inspired by the medieval Boccaccio as well as all of those incredible videos of Italians singing opera from their balconies… in 2020 we’re making a Global Decameron—a plague book! Whether you think of yourself as a full-time creative or a closet scribbler, challenge yourself to make something of this time. Make a short story, a poem, or a brief scene in a play. An essay, a video, a funny anecdote. A sketch, a painting, a cartoon. Group collaborations are perfect, just please let us know all of the names for attribution.

We will (lightly) edit your electronic submissions and create a coherent compilation to weave them together (it will be a bit of contortionism I have no doubt—what will you all submit?). We’re intentionally not giving other constraints—whatever you create right now is part of the ether we’re experiencing right now. Hoping for broad audiences—feel free to write tales for adults, but in a Peter Pan type way (channel James Barrie!) so the stories are enjoyable to all in the room including young listeners (as there are many who need some fresh entertainment). Go lite on the erotic genre y’all. Share broadly. Many will think it’s a fun idea, few will actually put pen to paper (errr, finger to keyboard).

The Original Decameron

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)

In 1353 Boccaccio completed The Decameron. Along the lines of the Thousand and One Nights, it is a group of stories held together by an overarching story frame: ten young people have fled the Plague and are sheltering in an abandoned villa outside Florence, Italy.

To pass the time in isolation (and keep their minds off the looming threat of the Black Death), they told each other stories. From love to life lessons to witty comedies, the stories paint a picture of 14th century Florentine life during the time of The Plague. The Decameron has had a long life both in its original form and as inspiration for creative geniuses from Shakespeare to Martin Luther to Vivaldi.

It seems opportune now to take it as inspiration as we shelter from our modern-day Plague, isolated, and yet together. Are you with us? Let’s create it: a modern-day Global Decameron.

Illustrations from a 1697 Edition

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Many thanks to the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam and these photographers for making their beautiful images available for free: