|Invisible Cities / Italo Calvino|
|Reviewed by Tal Cohen||Thursday, 18 March 1999|
A strange, fantastic book, Invisible Cities describes dialogues between Marco Polo, the Venetian traveler, and Kublai Khan, the oriental emperor. It has no plot as such — no beginning, no development of characters (no characters, for that matter, except for the two mentioned above) — but it does have a sad, bittersweet ending.
The book can probably be classified as “post-modern”, and Calvino’s writing can only be described as surrealistic. Trying to actually describe the book is a frustrating, almost futile attempt; I’ll give it a try anyway.
Khan expresses his tiredness of the stories brought to him by his messengers across the empire. Only the stories told by Polo, of the cities that he met during his travels, keep him interested.
Even though Khan insists, Polo never talks about his own city, Venice. He only talks about strange, magical, invisible cities that nobody else ever saw.
And yet, Khan cannot avoid the feeling that by telling him about those nonexistent places, Polo does describe, bit by bit, the city they both really think of.
The book consists of fifty-five extremely short city descriptions, embedded within an intellectual duel between Polo and Khan.
Despite its brevity, the book takes days to read — at least, when read properly. After each story you have to stop; to think; to contemplate on the piece of poetry-in-prose that you have just encountered. Many a story hits a nerve. For me it was impossible, after such stories, just to turn the page and read on.
I keep returning to read Invisible Cities because of its contemplative nature. Reading becomes like the book itself and the description Calvino gives of how Kublai Khan and Marco Polo communicate ''most of the time they remained silent and immobile.''
| Posted on Sunday, 25 May 2008 at 12:55 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]|
invisible cities - calvinoJ
Invisible Cities is so utterly Calvino sometimes I want to throw his books across the room... This one is as you describe, a set of prose poems. I found myself tabulating the number of bracketed opposites, oxymoronic phrases, listing the names of the cities, turning the text this way and that. Calvino delinearizes time, de-dimensions space. The saving grace for me reading this book, is that I have read some of his others and I taught If On a Winter's Night a Travel in a HS honors class, so I know how utterly, absolutely non conformist he can be. Calvino is Italy's answer to Joyce's Finnegan's Wake only better.
| Posted on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 at 19:17 GMT [Reply to this] [Permalink]|