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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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Top Customer Reviews
The characterization works like a photographic negative. He never tells us of Genghis Khan or Marco Polo; no descriptions or personality traits given. What he uses is their ideas and the things that they talk of to describe what kind of people they are. Thus, it is through their impressions on the template that I could tell what kind of characters they are. That is good, confident writing, I think.
The imagery is powerful too. Calvino strives to make his cities visible in the imagination. This is one trait that I think will make him be read years and years from now.
Take your time with this novel. In fact, I don't think that it is possible to even race through it. It's shortness is misleading, it is very dense and laden with vitality and deserves to be savored in enjoyment and not raced through in the reading. But if you can slow down and enjoy it, I think you will find it to be well worth the effort.
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.
Calvino is a masterful story teller - with an uncanny abililty to create space, setting, scene and mood. I found Invisible Cities a personal, intimate read. Marvelous.
Calvino really lets his imagination get high, to create the most bizarre, beautiful, horrible and crazy cities as any you yourself can imagine. Cities of all places, ages, shapes and peculiarities come to your mind. Calvino is really good at depicting impossible places, but also places that somehow remind you of real cities you've been to.
A remarkable work of imagination, well written, this is the ideal book to read in a dreamy scenery, but also in one of these quasi-impossible cities we humans have created, the craziest ones, such as NY, LA, Tokyo, Mexico City, etc.