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The Decameron Project by The New York Times Magazine

When reality is surreal, only fiction can make sense of it.

Earlier this year, the editors of The New York Times Magazine created The Decameron Project, a collection of short stories written as the coronavirus pandemic first swept the globe.

How would new fiction by some of the greatest writers of today help us understand the unimaginable? What could be learnt about how this crisis will affect the art of fiction? These were some of the questions the editors considered.

The anthology was inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. In 1353, Giovanni wrote 100 stories processing fear and grief caused by the Black Death of the 14th century. The stories were told by a group of men and women who self-isolated in a villa near Florence, waiting out the plague that killed more than 25 million people.

In 2020, twenty nine new short stories were commissioned from authors including Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange, Colm Toibin, Kamilia Shamsie, David Mitchell and more. Each offers their unique perspective and the writing is varied, ideal for dipping into. Collectively, these stories are a reminder that quality fiction can transport you to another place, while also helping you understand where you are.

The stories are a tribute to a specific moment in time, unlike any other in our lifetimes. The aim is to offer perspective to readers of today and in the future when hopefully the coronavirus is just a distant memory.

Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Simon & Schuster, RRP $39.99


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