Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities

Book - 1978
Average Rating:
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"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else." -- from Invisible Cities

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo -- Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.

" Invisible Cities changed the way we read and what is possible in the balance between poetry and prose . . . The book I would choose as pillow and plate, alone on a desert island." -- Jeanette Winterson
Publisher: New York : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978, c1974
Edition: 1st HarvestHBJ ed
ISBN: 9780156453806
0156453800
Characteristics: 165 p. ; 21 cm

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In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo--Tartar emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts the emperor with tales of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, desire, designs, ... Read More »


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scribby
Sep 11, 2017

A slim little volume but an outsized triumph of imagination. A beautifully written meditation on place and on memory. We slowly realize that some or all of these cities (as portrayed by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan) may be fabrications; but perhaps that is the point. In a work of fiction, what role do complete fictions play?

A friend of mine is writing a long set of pieces for string quartet, each one based on one of the cities portrayed in this book.

Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 08, 2014

There's good reason this is a classic. A profound meditation on perception, memory, and human existence.

l
lukasevansherman
Mar 08, 2014

"Signs form a language, but not the one you think you know." So, like, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo are just kicking it in a garden and M-Pol starts telling the Khan stories of these fantastic cities, which maybe are all the same city? The great Italian fabulist's novel is a paean to storytelling and imagination in the tradition of the Arabian Nights, Chaucer and Calvino's countryman Boccaccio. I still think "If On A Winter's Night" is his best work. You may also like Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco.

theorbys May 30, 2012

Marco Polo is describing fabulous cities to Kubla Khan. Each city's description is a short prose poem of sorts. At first I thought it was something of a homage to Borges, but as it kept piling on the cities it became a rather grueling read and seemed more and more contrived. For me it could lose 50 or more pages and only gain thereby. PS I have no problem with postmodern fiction in general.

r
Richood
Jan 25, 2011

Fascinating, and fun in a very, very advanced literary way. The book's entirely short pieces linked together, none more than 5 pages and most 1-2.

k
Kevint40
Apr 13, 2010

This short work is so magical, and undescribeable. One of the great little books of the 20th Century. It owes much to Borges for its design and inspiration, but it is all Calvino's.

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