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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.
I read this while traveling, which I think was ideal. As you walk around unfamiliar places, I think you notice things that the locals ignore or don't think about any more, and you are very aware of how the city feels and what its personality is. Calvino takes that feeling to an extreme by making his cities as magical as possible so that you have a sense not just of the physical attributes of the city, but the more nebulous aspects, too - the atmosphere and vibe that are so hard to describe to other people.
And each chapter is such a delight. I don't want to ruin the experience of reading something so different for you, but I do want you to get a sense of what is waiting for you. There's one city that exists on a spiderweb. One that is built in men's dreams of chasing a woman. One that has only the plumbing but none of the buildings. One that is built entirely on massive stilts. So many inventive and creative places to visit!
This was a different, completely new, kind of treat, and I think if you go into the book knowing that it really is just a series of vignettes that describe cities you wish truly were in our world, then you would really enjoy it. The language is beautiful, and the cities - I wish there were accompanying illustrations for each chapter!
Many times I went back and forth rereading passages that resonated with me.What else can I tell you? it's prose that urges you to reflect and ponder.
Worthy of the higher rating simply because it's a story that defies description and genre and has prose that you simply fall into and become immersed in.
is an Italian, and it was written in Italian but the translation to English was done excellently. I love the authors writing style, it is so flowing, almost like
poetry, and such fun to read. In addition the words and the stories gives you something to think about even after you finish the book. It is a good book to re read. I intuitively thought this, but now it been conceptualized that every town and city is different and in different ways. That's the fun and
learning of travel especially the world where the language and culture are so distinctly different. A book not for kids, but you will just love this book.