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Invisible Cities Paperback – May 3, 1978
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"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his." So begins Italo Calvino's compilation of fragmentary urban images. As Marco tells the khan about Armilla, which "has nothing that makes it seem a city, except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be," the spider-web city of Octavia, and other marvelous burgs, it may be that he is creating them all out of his imagination, or perhaps he is recreating details of his native Venice over and over again, or perhaps he is simply recounting some of the myriad possible forms a city might take.
Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant. -- Gore Vidal, The New York Review of Books
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That said, the Kindle edition is an embarassment. The publisher rushed a part-time intern into a room with a scanner and an OCR program and made sure they clocked out on time. Maybe they should have thought about proof reading? Italicized words appear randomly throughhout the text, obviously not intentionally. Perhaps that's supposed to be a tribute to the author's first name? But the words that are simply mis-recognized by the OCR software are the worst: "faces" becomes "feces" tipping us off to the standard of quality the publisher had in mind for this edition. Come on you cheap bastards, just hire someone to proofread it before you throw it out there as a Kindle edition.
Too much has been written about the structure, the symbolism, the meaning of the work but not enough about how the story inflames the reader's imagination. In short, how it affects the reader in an aesthetic sense. The closest comparison would be to Umberto Eco and Borges, where Eco is the theoretician and Borges is the story teller.
Calvino is a story teller first and his works do intrigue both the sensual imagination and the analytical intellect, which is why this book as with all great literature should be experienced and examined several times. The more of yourself you put into this book, the more you will get from it, and the more it will change you. I suppose this is why children never get tired of having the same bed time stories read to them. I only wish that Italo was still around to tuck me in at night.
I got the whiff about this book from some interview in the newspaper, a emerging politician referring this in his interview.
A dreamer, a traveler , moving from one city to another.
The cities are described nicely, and most of the cities are a part of his imagination.
I specially loved the conversation between Kublai khan and Marco polo.
The perspective on various things , the relevance to current situations in the world.
Some of the cities described are just small places like an airport, an garden , a lake ans so on..
Th simple statements which make you realize the current situation of world and how it came about and divine.
nice book 4/5
INVISIBLE CITIES is a challenging experience. Each very short “story” describes a fictive city and its inhabitants. Symbolism and metaphor dovetail with themes of linguistics, semiotics, and nearly everything that cities represent and breed.
While a few of the cities stuck with me, I never felt my inner world rearranged the way I wanted it to be. I used the word puzzling at the beginning of this review, and I feel that’s the operative word when it comes to INVISIBLE CITIES: everything feels like a puzzle. Some of the puzzles I could solve, others left me cold and I moved on. The writing is excellent - the opening passage describing the state of Kublai’s empire is vibrant and evocative. This is a book I’ll likely return to again as I seek out meaning that was lost during my first reading.
[I have a sneaking suspicion this book would earn five stars and beyond if it were paired with some cannabis. It’s that kind of book. I’d finish a story and then, in the back of my head, I’d hear Jeff Spicoli cry out “Whoa! Dude!” Please note, I am not a physician, so I’m not recommending this combination of Italian fabulist literature and psychotropic medication, but I do think it should be stated…]