~Read ♗ Le città invisibili ♹ 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
It s easy to describe what Invisible Cities is not rather than what it is as it s really very difficult to ascertain which category it can be put into it neither has a clear plot nor characters are developed as they normally are, it can t be called a novel or collection of stories, can t be put in any one genre since it surpasses so many but still something extraordinary, something which can t be described in words, which can only be felt The book has loose dialogues between emperor Kublai Khan and a Venetian explorer Marco Polo, Polo is ordered to explore the empire of the Khan and to tell parables with which to regale the ageing, and frequently impatient conqueror with descriptions of every city he has visited on his long peregrinations through Kingdom of Kublai Khan.The parables are surreal in nature and prose is very lyrical however I wonder how lyrical it would be in its original language The book is divided into parables about fifty five imaginary cities which are categorized into eleven groups of memory, desire, sign, thin, trading, eyes, names, dead, sky, continuous and hidden.Different groups are associated with different themes, as Cities Memory stories are philosophical thought experiments about nostalgia, history discarding old Memories which are formed through word of mouth and forming their own As this wave from memories flows in, the city soaks it up like a sponge and expands The city which cannot be expunged from the mind is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember At this point I feel It s not possible to review the book though I made a futile attempt and the I think about the book the I feel I have to re read it and then read it again.However there is one thing which I can surely say about Invisible Cities that it s A lucid dream one which can be experienced and can t be described. Marco Polo Now I shall tell you of the beautiful city of Nottingham where the buildings are made mostly of blue glass, onyx and sausagemeat The men of the city trade in fur, spices and photographs of each other with their respective spouses All the men have large phalluses, sometimes so large they must cut pieces out of the tops of their front doors before they can exit their houses in the morning This is a city of dreamers and anthropophagi, of astronomers and chess players, all with the largest of phalluses The women of the city are the most voluptuous and lively They wear clothes Many times I have observed them gambolling and performing handsprings for sheer joy of being in Nottingham The dogs of Nottingham are all sly and well read They play canasta and billiards mostly, but also trade junk bonds and enjoy swapping photographs of the men of Nottingham with their respective spouses But describing the cats of Nottingham will tax me to the very limit of my powers, O mighty Lord Kublai Khan One moment, Sr Polo You will see the sun is high I must now bathe in Turkish Delight and oxtail soup We will recommence in the cool of the evening.Marco Polo I await your pleasure, my Lord.Kublai Khan to his chief fixer the Grand Weirdo of All The Kingdoms Later this afternoon I wish you to tell Sr Marco I have died Or tell me that he has died One of the two. Heidi Whitman Brain Terrain I have not read Marco Polos s Journeys, but I could imagine what he has written Had I read it, I also would have had to imagine what he had written Same verbs, different tenses.As I am sitting on a bench in front of a museum, waiting for a friend, a family of Italian tourists comes and sits next to me They come from the land of Marco Polo, or maybe not, may be from the land of Italo Calvino since I do not know if they are Venetians Italy was a projection of the Imagination in the nineteenth century Marco Polo did not know it.They carry a guidebook of the city of Madrid, and are trying to make sense out of the book, a book written in their language, and also make sense out of the city, written in the language of cities Universally understood Cosmopolitan.It must be the monuments, the streets, the histories, the nourishment, the inhabitants, the parks, the related but different language that they want to understand They use the text and the reproduced images as the key to comprehend the Urbis and the originals standing in front of them.MemoryAnd may be one of them, the father, remembers when he came here with his parents He could be telling his children now about his Memories But as they are listening, they are also discarding those Memories and forming their own new future Memories of having visited the city with their parents And they will tell their future children who will also forget Remembering a Forgetting, like waves of the same sea.DesireTheir visit must have been prompted by some Desire to leave their everyday monotonous but comfortable life and look for excitement Depending on their age they could participate in the bustling Madrid night life in which Desires wildly run Age and Desire Are all of them captives of their Desire Spectrums Would I desire to unlock their Desires No Only mine.SignsLooking around these Italians could observe that most Signs only signal the same as all the others International sign language has become a non sign language They mean sameness.Thin CitiesAs Europeans they should not be surprised to see that this is not a Thin City There are trees, there are street lamps, and there are some dreadful tall buildings It is a city that could grow horizontally because it is on a barren plateau And yet, and yet, it has steep roads And these do feel like pure verticals on a tired morning The city is hilly and the sharp drop comes as a surprise as one arrives at the Palacio Real, where the Sabatini Gardens extend deep down Francisco Sabatini, another Italian and architect and who has projected an invisible Italian quality to this city As if Marco Polo had been here.Trading CitiesWith no seaport it had to become a port of projections and become a matrix for the dispatches to far away ports And it did so contrary to Marco Polo s direction when his route was blocked by the Tartars This landlocked city would determine the launching of the black Galleons and sail them off cruising the sea routes to meet the successors of Kublai Kahn and Trade with them in that twin trading city, Ma Nila Ma Drid Coming and going EyesThere is a building where there are many Eyes They are all moving and roving around, looking at the walls, at the colours and flat shapes on the walls And they continue looking and those walls with their images look back at them The paintings have been looking at eyes for a longer time than these eyes have looked at anything And there thrones a picture with which the imagination of a Venetian captured the Warrior on horseback looking over those eyes, looking without seeing them Echoing the other Emperor when he had said to his Venetian describe to me your cities , Emperor Charles V summoned Tiziano Vecellio and said to him paint me your worlds, so that I can see them.Tiziano painted Charles gaze into the horizon, into his world.NamesMatrix, or Matrice or Matriz or Magerit or Magra The same city, different identities and varying names Madrid in Spanish, Madrid in English, Madrid in German.And in Mandarin, Ma de li, for the understanding of Kublai Kahn.The DeadThe monuments make the Dead alive that the current alive They remain and there are very many But since I have a Now, I am interested in the fewer ones.The SkyIt is not true that Madrid has no sea It just hangs over its inhabitants The very intense blue of the Sky, so deep an azure because of the dry climate and the elevation of the city, makes one imagine oneself with wings which can be spread out to then set off with one s soul and swim in the airy ocean.The Ultra Mar.ContinuousNight and day, and Seasons And clocks, many clocks They seem to divide time, but they are phantasmagorias or devices that do the opposite from the magic emerging out of Phenakistoscopes and create the illusion of discrete, detached, distinct moments out of the unceasing Continuous.HiddenMost of the inhabitants are also tourists, like this Italian family This is a city populated not just by passers in Life, but principally by outsiders who were not born here Anonymous origins and undisclosed length of time for their open transit Whether in hotels or temporary homes everybody s lives remain invisible from each other And their realities are not deciphered in the guide book of the Italians, just as Marco Polo did not succeed in deciphering his cities for the Great Kahn They will remain invisible.Great ChanInvisible Cities forms part of the conclusion of Jonathan s Spence s The Chan s Great Continent China in Western Minds After reviewing the representation of China in Western minds, starting with Marco Polo, Spence tackles in the final chapter the three geniuses who understood what was at stake Neither Kafka, nor Borges nor Calvino, had ever been to China Yet, to the Sinologist Spence, they were the three bright minds who did not fall on the Orientalist trappings And Calvino was the one to have identified best the trappings of the mind in representing the fascinating unknown. This a litany of cities 55 obviously fictitious, exquisitely described by Marco Polo to the great Mongol emperor Kublai Khan he is understandably dubious Imagination flows gently through the words of Marco Polo at the grand royal palace in Beijing, towns nobody seen let alone accept The renowned traveler enjoys visiting new places some very beautifully chronicled by him these settlements but with a touch of creativity which the mind cannot fathomed, yet amaze, city after city, superb even those floating in the air unreachable to all, others underground the citizens in them oblivious to the rest of the world, those looking up feel jealous the mystery unexplained, walls impregnable, roads which take you away from the towns but never to them, sea ports, inland isolated metropolises alone in the vast deserts, they glitter in the sunshine and fade at night Strangely though the great khan notices no mention of VeniceYou would think the continuous page after page of rather unbelievable cities would get monotonous but this is incorrect, as such allure is never boring The architecture so fantastic it could not exist on the Earth only in the bottomless mind People like to hope in something they know is impossible their run of the mill lives are unexciting, needing to be charmed, stimulated, dream about what s over the other side of the hill This will always be true the stories that take them from the humdrum to the heights are perpetual in fashion, humans strive to arrive in a land of the riddle and try solving the enigma, may this be forever The author of the book Italo Calvino Cuban born with Italian parents , an unique magnificent writer of the visual who lived in Italy Both a journalist, short story writer and novelist he engaged in, becoming a master of fantasy as shown here and rich, famous, few could capture its essence better For the person who wants to escape reality and spend a little time in the what could be, imagination is another way to live at least for a short whileIsn t that enough The photo is of new and old Shanghai, photographed by Greg Girard in 2000 source , chronologically equidistant between my two visits there It is, and maybe always has been, a city of contrasting, unequal, parts and pairs, like many of the Invisible Cities Each man bears in his mind a city made only of differences. ListenI ve been eavesdropping on the mysterious, hypnotic conversations between a famous explorer from antiquity and the powerful emperor of a distant land Marco Polo and Kublai Khan Exotic places are conjured by gestures, emblems, and words Then the tables turn, and the Khan describes the cities of his dreams and asks Polo if they exist.But is it the 55 cities bearing female names, or many aspects of a single city Venice , or nearer a hundred cities many of them have twins or doubles Submit to EnchantmentIt s deliciously slippery collection of prose poems about places, grouped by words and numbers, repeated in different permutations that defy a single interpretation though many have been applied, including sine waves It suggests multiple routes of reading, much like some of the twisted and recursive paths through the cities themselves There are Cities and Memory, Cities and Desire, Cities and Signs, Thin Cities, Trading Cities, Cities and Eyes, Cities and Names, Cities and the Dead, Cities and the Sky, Continuous Cities, and Hidden Cities.It purports to be about physical places, but as it explores the invisible order that sustains cities , there are twists and forks in time as well as geography the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time.I fear that if I try to constrain these kaleidoscopic and sometimes paradoxical visions to black and white marks on a screen, I will somehow kill the enchantment for myself as well as for anyone reading DoThese are places you must experience for yourself, walking the streets crossing the canals peering in windows holding your nose at the stench marvelling at the architecture gazing at the underclad bathing beauties exploring the exotic markets puzzling at the frequent mentions of pipes, taps, gutters, and sewers choking on smoke, and always seeking fresh revelations As you wander, you can wonder how the cities are simultaneously similar and yet startlingly different it s never clear quite what real and what is not, what is cause and what is effect Perhaps that s part of the invisibility of the title.Whether this is travelling through China, Calvino, Venice or an atlas in a library, your journey will not be the same as mine, and nor will my subsequent ones We will not be the same people, either Meanwhile, in another city, another Cecily is writing a completely different review Related Books This was my second Calvino Structurally, it can seem much simpler than If on a winter s night a traveler, but it s oddly harder to review A few months before this, I read and loved Andrew Lightman s Einstein s Dreams Having read Invisible Cities, I now realise how heavily influenced Lightman was in content, structure, style every way Whether you class it as homage or borderline plagiarism is debatable, but it does not detract from my enjoyment at the time, and I think Lightman s book is probably the accessible of the two, even though it is primarily about physics time, rather than geography Jeanette Winterson s The Passion portrays a magical Venice of shifting routes that is beautifully reminiscent of Calvino.Quotes The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls Anastasia awakens desires one at a time only to force you to stifle them, when you awaken in the heart of Anastasia one morning your desires waken all at once and surround you You believe you are enjoying Anastasia wholly when you are only its slave You penetrate it along its streets thick with signboards jutting from the walls The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages Does your journey take place only in the past Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had Futures not achieved are only branches of the past dead branches Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears The most fixed and calm lives are spent without any repetition The exhalations that hang over the roofs of the metropolises, the opaque smoke that is not scattered, the hood of miasmata that weighs over the bituminous streets Not the labile mist of memory nor the dry transparance, but the charring of burned lives that forms a scab on the city, the sponge swollen with vital matter that no longer flows, the jam of past, present, future that blocks existences calcified in the illusion of movement this is what you would find at the end of your journey Traveling, you realize that differences are lost Your atlas preserves the differences A voluptuous vibration constantly stirs Chloe, the most chaste of cities If men and women began to live their ephemeral dreams, every phantom would become a person with whom to being a story and the carousel of fantasies would stop. 350 Le citta invisibili Invisible Cities, Italo CalvinoInvisible Cities is a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino It was published in Italy in 1972 The book explores imagination and the imaginable through the descriptions of cities by an explorer, Marco Polo The book is framed as a conversation between the aging and busy emperor Kublai Khan, who constantly has merchants coming to describe the state of his expanding and vast empire, and Polo The majority of the book consists of brief prose poems describing 55 fictitious cities that are narrated by Polo, many of which can be read as parables or meditations on culture, language, time, memory, death, or the general nature of human experience Over the nine chapters, Marco describes a total of fifty five cities, all women s names The cities are divided into eleven thematic groups of five each Cities Memory Cities Desire Cities Signs Thin Cities Trading Cities Cities Eyes Cities Names Cities the Dead Cities the Sky Continuous Cities Hidden Cities 2003 1368 152 1381 152 9647425163 20 1388 206 9789647081733 1389 1392 1391 152 9789643517960 216 1368 1981 1972. Theories.One could easily declare that the protagonists of this book are the cities, which are different versions of the same city that doesn t really exist, only maybe in the writer s mind Either Venice or Paris, Calvino s cities are a trip through imagination to lives never had, doors never opened, people never met.Someone else might appoint the reader as the real protagonist of Calvino s book for he becomes the traveler who visits these cities mentally, which are nothing else than representations of his current mood, his past experiences and his unverbalized longings The cities change shape and adapt to the traveler s desires, they blend together into that tenuous moment between sleep and waking, the split second when dreaming occurs.The interpretation of a third reader might allude to the allegoric meaning of the interludes between the extravagant descriptions of the cities where Marco Polo proves the deceitful nature of language to the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan through silent gesticulation The Venetian merchant smuggles moods, states of grace and elegies instead of material riches, maybe as a metaphor to show the Chinese ruler that conquering cities is like accumulating empty shells, a nothingness that lacks cohesion, for their true wealth is to be found in their people, not in the physical space they inhabit How does one imprison souls Free style.Truth is I am unable to tell you what this book is about It s certainly not about what I wrote above But maybe it is Every reader will discover its meaning in the surrealistic patterns of titles and alternating themes that give shape to an unrepeatable skyline, a personal print that will only fit the soul of each traveler.To me, Calvino s cities represent the deadlock between dreams and reality and the way we connect them in our minds to dominate the pulse of time Unsought memories carry the heavy load of past experiences, and that burden of nostalgia opens the door to unfulfilled desires that materialize into the tangible futures we will never own How many lives can the keen observer recreate in his mind How many times can we alter the past in mental recreation, bring the dead back to life by thinking of them But remembering doesn t come face forward, it ambushes you around sideways and oftentimes traps you in a deadly embrace, and the reflected image may replace the original thought In the end, amidst a labyrinthine maze of canals, ancient Gods of locals and foreigners clinging to the threshold of upside down doors and black and white strings attaching relationships between the inhabitants of a spider web city, I couldn t resist the allure of Maurilia This was the city where I could finally put my discombobulated mind at rest The comfortable safety of its sepia postcards brought me back to the cozy evenings with granny when I had only to concentrate on the invisible map her bonny fingers scratched gently on my back after a tepid day at school Calvino led me to here and now to type these words that make her precious presence real than ever I can even delineate the shape of the sound of her fluttering voice clearly in my head Hello, Granny Thank you, Calvino. Invisible Cities Imagined Lives Marco Polo was a dreamer He had great ambitions wanting to be a traveller, a writer and a favored courtier He wanted to live in the lap of luxury in his lifetime and in the best illustrated pages of history later But he could only be a dreamer and never much Was it good enough He never travelled anywhere and spent his life dreaming away in his Venice and is remembered to this day as the greatest explorer and travel writer of all time How did that come about It is a tale about the triumph of imagination over experience.In Venice, that city of water, a network of canals and a network of streets span and intersect each other Marco Polo was traveling in a little boat in that Venice and thinking of the Marco Polo he was meant to be when his imagination began to soar All the travelogues he wanted to write started coming to his mind A whole book of descriptions, all made of poems that would describe the beauty of this city like those waves reflecting it in varied shapes among their ripples He watched the people moving along the streets, each eye seeing the same city differently, dependent on the angle of observation, and speaking in a language of symbols and images that is powerful than words can ever be The river is the story, the river is the book, arranged in perfect sinusoidal waves of its own and choosing as its reader the greatest of all appreciators, the book catches the splendor of the city and reflects it for your patient eyes in a sort of primitive cubism, leaving it to you to make out all its meaning and all its poetry and to see ultimately yourself in that reflection of all the cities that imagination could possibly build.He started going on long voyages into his own mind, into the reflections of Venice, and into the reflections of those reflections And then he wrote them down and he spoke of them and he sang of them Men stopped to listen They paid to hear him, first with time, then with gold, then with diamonds and great honors.The Venetian was soon summoned to the court of the great Kublai Khan, who was also a dreamer He envisioned himself to be the greatest of rulers, his kingdom expanding and pouring over the whole vast world until all the world was under him He knew that information was power and he wanted to know of every single city under him, and of every city that was to be under him On the day when I know all the cities, he thought, I shall be able to possess my empire, at last He wanted Marco polo to be his eyes and ears and sent him off, with instructions to visit the most far flung and exotic provinces and to understand the soul of every city and to report back to him.Marco Polo bowed every time and with great aplomb set off for his great voyages Next week he would be in his beloved Venice, dreaming up the world, a world real than reality, with all the ingredients needed to construct a city memories, desires, signs, skies, trade, eyes, sounds, shapes, names and the dead He spoke of old cities with gods and demons in it, of cities yet to be, with airplanes and atomic bombs coloring their movements, and of cities that should have been, with happiness and sorrow apportioned in balance What separates the dream s reality from the dreamer s reality He pondered on this mystery with every city Maybe all successful men dream our lives as it should be while rotting in some sewer and maybe all unhappy men dream their unhappiness in life while rotting in some palace Maybe we can only continue our chosen destinies and everything else is a dream It is only invisible cities we can construct And we can reflect on them only through imagination, and fiction He knew his cities were real.It took many years for the Great Khan to realize that Marco Polo wasn t describing cities so much as the human mind and experience He realized that every city, whether imagined by Marco Polo or constructed by planned blueprints or grown from slow accretion are all dreams given shape by human hands, by human ambition, by a desire for a future that can be shaped In fact, Marco Polo s cities started to seem to him real than any he knew to be real He learned that if men and women began to live their ephemeral dreams, every phantom would become a city in which to begin a story of pursuits, pretenses, misunderstandings, clashes, oppressions, and the carousel of fantasies would stop.Khan now knew how to travel, to really travel He could now accompany the great explorer in his prophetic journeys He could describe cities to Marco Polo and he could listen to him, even as he filled in the details They could sit together in the courtyard and be silent and still travel through the most exotic and most truthful of cities.Then came a day when Marco Polo had to inform the Khan, Sire, now I have told you about all the cities I know There is still one of which you never speak Marco Polo bowed his head Venice, the Khan said.Marco smiled What else do you believe I have been talking to you about The emperor did not turn a hair And yet I have never heard you mention that name And Polo said Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice When I ask you about other cities, I want to hear about them And about Venice, when I ask you about Venice Khan made an attempt at looking angry but he knew his friend could see through faces and all such masks To distinguish the other cities qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit For me it is Venice For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave There is the city where you arrive for the first time and there is another city which you leave never to return Each deserves a different name perhaps I have already spoken of Venice under other names perhaps I have spoken only of Venice You should then describe for me Venice as it is, all of it, not omitting anything you remember of it Memory s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased, Polo said Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little Kublai looked at Polo He understood To tell a story you have to start from what you know best You have to put your soul in the story and then build the flesh, the hair, the face and the clothes around it The stories you tell, the of your soul you invest and lay bare to the world When do you start fearing that you are as invisible as the cities you create Kublai continued to look sadly at his friend.Kublai asks Marco, When you return to the West, will you repeat to your people the same tales you tell me I speak and speak, Marco says, but the listener retains only the words he is expecting It is not the voice that commands the story it is the ear Then Khan knew that the sadness he felt so pressingly as he tried to force the wine down was not for his dear friend but for himself, he now knew that as he was listening to all the stories that Marco Polo was describing to him, he was only hearing stories that he was telling himself The cities were all real, but they were not reflections of Marco Polo s soul, they were not reflecting his Venice They were reflecting Kublai Khan s own soul, his own empire, ambitions, desires and fears.Disclaimer Marco Polo Really Did Go To China, MaybeEdit I got a message from a goodreader asking me why I put up the whole story of the book without a spoiler warning Please go ahead and read the review without any fear of spoilers, the connection with the plot of the book if any is very tenuous this is an imagined plot backstory for a book that deliberately lacks one. This is my favourite Calvino book and the one I always suggest to friends to ask me for an interesting easy read or a start into Calvino s universe It is hard to write a long review here without giving away the entire story but suffice it to say that it is poetic prose at its best In a nutshell, Marco Polo describes to Kublai Khan the various cities he has been to before his visit to China between 1271 and 1275 CE Each description is fanciful and beautiful than the previous and there is a spectacular poetic d nouement.The nearest equivalent in graphic novels for me would be the many melancholy works of Schuitten in Les Cit s Obscures series A total classic and must read.