Given the literary tradition of setting stories during times of plagues, it’s not surprising that academics/writers have taken to comparing tales of pandemics past and present. Govanni Bccaccio’s Decameron is a good illustration of how history tends to retell it’s stories in myriad ways.

Written in the immediate aftermath of the Black Death that struck Florence in 1348, the book tells the story of a group of ten young people who flee the plague-ravaged city for the Tuscan countryside, where they bide the time telling 100 short tales over the course of their pastoral retreat.

Millicent Marcus in “Reading The Decameron Through the Lens of COVID-19

As the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, we asked 29 authors to write new short stories inspired by the moment. We were inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron

The New York TimesThe Decameron Project

Rivka Galchen essay acts as the entry point to the NYT Sunday Magazine Story Collection interactive website.

Ten young people decide to quarantine outside Florence. It’s 1348, in the time of the bubonic plague. The afflicted develop lumps in their groins or armpits, then dark spots on their limbs. Some appear healthy at breakfast but by dinner are sharing a meal, it is said, with their ancestors in another world. Wild pigs sniff and tear at the rags of corpses, then convulse and die themselves. What do these young people do, after fleeing unspeakable suffering and horror? They eat, sing songs and take turns telling one another stories.

Rivka Galchen, “An introduction to “The Decameron,” The Decameron Project

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

Karl Marx.

Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.

Narcotics Anonymous