Invisible Cities
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Invisible Cities

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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  22,747 ratings  ·  1,603 reviews
Imaginary conversations between Marco Polo and his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, conjure up cities of magical times. “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). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Paperback, 165 pages
Published May 3rd 1978 by Mariner Books (first published 1972)
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Riku Sayuj

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 more. Was it good enough? He never travelled anywhere and spent his life dreaming away in hisVenice and is remembered to this day as the greatest explorer and travel writer of all time. How did that come...more
Kalliope





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...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
This is the third book that I have attempted to write a response to this week, and failed. I think I am going through a very internal, sponge-like phase. To say that I haven't been going out much would be a ridiculous understatement. I hole up in my bed, finish a book, set it down and grab another almost instantly, comparing the smell of the old to that of the new, then dive straight in, surfacing only rarely for air. I haven't felt up to hammering down my feelings about these things that I have...more
Rakhi Dalal
A city inhabiting one’s inside, its streets, lanes and by-lanes running in the veins and arteries, the hubbub of the city enlivening even the tiniest fraction of a being. The city; living, breathing, growing and leaving an impression in the very essence, even if it is never visited in one’s lifetime. And then - a multitude of such cities, standing under the auspices of their heritage, a witness to the chronicles of their golden times, cities with their halos; an invisible but inescapable allure....more
Madeleine
Italo Calvino is a veritable drug. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't trust them if they do.

Ever since the rapturous reading experience that is If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, I have been hooked on the man's words. As it is with most blossoming relationships, I'm a little wary of coming on too strong or getting too close too quickly and chipping away at the charming veneer of novelty in the throes of my overeager enthusiasm before we've gotten comfortable with each other, but this...more
Garima
Since my copy of if on a winter's night a traveler is on its way, I thought of equipping myself with writings of Italo Calvino. In the meanwhile I laid my hands upon Invisible Cities. It’s one of the few books to which I have given 5 stars making it clearly evident as to how much I loved it. This work of Calvino is an unadulterated imagination booksonified. It can best be described as the figment of everybody’s imagination. I hope I can safely say for everyone that once in our lives we have imag...more
Algernon
After sunset, on the terraces of the palace, Marco Polo expounded to the sovereign the results of his missions. As a rule the Great Khan concluded his day savoring these tales with half-closed eyes until his first yawn was the signal for the suite of pages to light the flames that guided the monarch to the Pavilion of August Slumber.
But this time Kublai seemed unwilling to give in to the weariness.
"Tell me another city!" he insisted.


With Marco Polo cast in the role of Scheherezade and Kublai K...more
Bram
Given the subject matter—um, descriptions of cities—I wasn’t expecting this book to affect me on such a personal, visceral level. But during the final city description and again in Marco Polo’s closing dialogue with Kublai Khan, I got serious chills. And to put that in perspective, I was finishing it outside (90+ degrees) George Bush Intercontinental Houston, or whatever the hell that airport’s called. Now this effect may have been compounded by the fact that I was also listening to the Conan th...more
Geoff
All the spaces we inhabit are in some way our dreams. All the spaces we pass through are composed by our subjective perceptions for us as much as they are composed of the objective material that works on those perceptions. All spaces hold and reflect something of ourselves, our histories. I sit in my carefully arranged room composing this piece on Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities; I am seated in a comfortable chair, it is arranged below a window that lets in copious light in the mornings and aft...more
Emma
Nov 12, 2012 Emma rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: The world
Recommended to Emma by: Shan Jago
Calvino is an extraordinary writer, isn’t he? I’m consistently blown away by his prose, imagination and originality. He is not a writer that I was familiar with before goodreads. I try to discuss him with my friends, but they have never heard of him. Even my mother in-law, who is a retired English teacher, is not au fait with his work. When I read a book like Invisible Cities, I want to shout from the rooftops how brilliant Calvino is and that nobody should wait, like me, until they are 32 to pi...more
Paul
Dec 17, 2012 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels

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 l...more
Mon
Invisible Cities: A Parody

Now i shall tell of the city of Yendys, which is wonderful in this fashion: though set on an even coastal plane with mediocre breeze and timid weather, the houses and decorated sheds are of bricks and corrugated iron, connected to each other with quiet courtyards split by pairs, surrounded with exotic, tidy bush of ginormous flowers, man-sized tin water tanks, weather vanes and shinny Japanese vehicles parked on dark grey gravel street that glistens under the sun.

No on...more
Keely
In writing, pretension is the act of pulling your hamstring while lifting your pen. It is that sudden, clear, and unfortunate. It should also be avoidable, but anyone gifted with a grain of brilliance is tempted to extend it as far as they can, like Donne's speck of dust stretched the length of the universe, one is left wondering whether it was more ludicrous or thought-provoking.

Calvino's 'Invisible Cities' is a series of descriptions of mythical, impossible cities told by Marco Polo to Kublai...more
Ian Paganus
Hidden Cities * 6

You once asked me to describe Venice, and I told you that, every time I described a city, I was saying something about Venice. That was only partly true. In a way, I told you everything I knew about Venice, and nothing.

The truth is that when we first met, I barely knew Venice, its buildings, its canals, its gardens, its squares, its people. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Let me explain why.

Do you know how old I was when I first left Venice with my father and uncle? Six!...more
Lit Bug
I should probably admit that Calvino is a gifted writer – he writes so exquisitely, it is difficult to put down a book by him even if it doesn’t make sense to me. My second Calvino, and my response to it is the same I had when I read his first some years ago (If on a winter’s night a traveler) – I didn’t understand a damn thing, and couldn’t put it down either. Worse, I couldn’t rate it at all. I didn’t even know what I thought of it. Fortunately, I re-read ‘If on a…’ some time back, and to my u...more
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
"Tidak mudah untuk menjelaskan isi novel ini. Setiap usaha untuk melakukannya tampaknya hanya akan berakhir sia-sia. Bukan semata karena gambaran kota-kota magis dan surealis yang ada di dalamnya, tetapi juga karena keindahan puitisnya. Inilah novel dimana kemustahilan imajinasi bertemu dengan pasangan sempurnanya : kefasihan bercerita "


Itu kata endorsementnya.

Tadinya saya mengira bahwa pujian untuk buku ini terlampau berlebihan. Tapi begitu habis bab-bab awal, saya sadar, pujian tersebut justr...more
John
Sep 27, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Just read it!
Recommended to John by: I'd heard of Calvino & bought the '74 hardcover
Membership in Goodreads has its requirements, and I'd have to turn in my badge if I didn't post something on the late-century grandmaster Calvino. INVISIBLE CITIES emerges as the one to celebrate, though he never wrote a loser, and I'd never have a library without COSMICOMICS or THE BARON IN THE TREES. Still, CITIES is the one that's laid out songlines across all the continents of reading. By some miracle of imagination, Calvino pulls off both a form no one had ever seen before and a structure t...more
David
Calvino's Invisible Cities is more a chronicle of linked prose poetry than it is a novel. Marco Polo, the Scheherazadean narrator, tells Kublai Khan about the fifty-five (is it really only that many?) of impossibly imaginative cities which he has encountered along his travels. Whether cities of the dead, or continuous cities, or what-have-you, every city has some element of the paradoxical, or the impossible and irrational. This Borgesian labyrinth of falsity mixed with truth is gripping. And th...more
Henry Martin
You past adolescence and enter the world of adult literature. At first, you read anything and everything that found its way to your hands; then, slowly you begin discovering your own, unique literary taste, and you become selective. The more you read, the more selective you become. Your list of favorite authors and genres grows; you find literary voices that speak directly to your soul. By now, you have reached mid age, and you have over two decades of serious reading under your belt. Any new bo...more
MJ Nicholls
I read the edition translated into Scots by Wullie Weaver. Here are a few excerpts:


Repulsive Cities ∙ 2

The red brick edifices tower over the populace, signifers of a forgotten dream, of a thought abandoned in the ailing conscious of intrepid colonial adventurers. A range of hominids patrol the looming DSS office walls, dishing out abuse to obese mothers and wageless wanderers. This is a city of broken faeces, a city of cross-eyed big brothers, watching from the skies for a sign of salvation, som...more
Stephanie Sun
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-
hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Imagine holding in a fart for eleven years and finally being able to let it out.

That's what reading, and finally finishing (eleven years after receiving it as a college graduation gift), Invisible Cities was like for me in October 2013.

In a journey as recursive, prototypical, and double-blind as anything Italo himself could have hoped for, for eleven...more
Matt

Perhaps my previous experiences with Calvino's writings led me to expect something different out of this book. Each short chapter certainly had plenty to make me think about, but after finishing the book as a whole I am having a hard time putting all of those thoughts together in a coherent way. I liked it. I really did. But I'm left more with a feeling of not having understood something very important from the whole 'story'...something Calvino wanted me to understand. Is it really just the frag...more
Rosana
Dec 01, 2008 Rosana rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
As a child I remember being mesmerized by a collection of fairy tales. I could read with proficiency for my age – maybe 6 or 7 – but much of the meaning escaped me, although I could sense, or guess, much of it. At the end, it did not matter, because I was enthralled by the images and language.

Invisible Cities took me back to that early reading experience. I felt lost at times, searching for the meaning when the surreal and exotic images made me drunk. There is a philosophical deepness to this b...more
Jonathan
By disembodying his conquests to reduce them to the essential, Kublai had arrived at the extreme operation: the definitive conquest, of which the empire's multiform treasures were only illusory envelopes. It was reduced to a square of planed wood: nothingness...

If this quote alone does not highlight that Invisible Cities is a work of existentialist literature I doubt that nothing else will. In a similar vein of writing to If On a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino creates another beauti...more
Bennet
The Great Khan contemplates an empire covered with cities that weigh upon the earth and upon mankind, crammed with wealth and traffic, overladen with ornaments and offices, complicated with mechanisms and hierarchies, swollen, tense, ponderous. "The empire is being crushed by its own weight," Kublai thinks, and in his dreams now cities light as kites appear, pierced cities like laces, cities transparent as mosquito netting, cities like leaves' veins, cities lined like a hand's palm . . .

The Grea
...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
I'll risk it and speculate that the cities are our books.
René
Kublai Khan, having ravished lands and treasures in an immense empire, having submitted men and cities over incommensurable distances, sometimes gets a little sad in the evenings when he's not exactly sure what he's acquired, not totally convinced all the bloodshed was worth it, not persuaded he can keep the empire, and mostly confused about what his empire really holds.

What is the purest value of what his empire has to offer?

Marco Polo knows! A spice merchant by trade, dreamer by nature, he's b...more
Anastasia
Io e Calvino non siamo mai andati tanto d'amore e d'accordo da correre per i prati tenendoci la manina, ma abbiamo sempre e comunque intrattenuto un rapporto di piacevolezze e qualche pesantezza annoiata in tutte le letture: sia Marcovaldo, sia Il barone rampante, e..anche Le città invisibili non è esente in questa spiacevole legge fisica che vuole mettere in rapporto la sottoscritta con Italo.
Calvino non è nei miei geni, che ci debbo fa'?

Ho sfogliato città dopo città, alcune di loro mi hanno i...more
Arun Divakar
For once, just for this once I agree with a review on the book cover. On the cover page of Invisible Cities is written a line by Sunday Times " A subtle, beautiful meditation..", the book lives up to these words in its 165 pages. This is my first Italo Calvino and I intend to find out from some place his acclaimed "If on a winter's night..".

Unfolding as a dialog between the Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan & the legendary explorer Marco Polo, the book is a dream like sojourn through a distant lan...more
Stephen M
Always the experimentalist, Calvino strings together a set of philosophical vignettes that read almost as a collection of prose poems. It is more of a strange take on metaphysics than anything else. Sometimes the descriptions get bogged down in strung-out adjectives and abstract sketches. Regardless Calvino's imagination is what won me out in the end. Some of the cities he enlivens are so playful and thought-provoking, I was really moved by his unique story.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Invisible cities as imagined by artist Colleen Corradi Brannigan 1 58 May 20, 2013 05:15PM  
Novels of very short stories or fragments 5 31 May 16, 2013 09:31AM  
The Italo Calvino...: Favourite city from Invisible Cities 7 84 Apr 13, 2013 06:00AM  
This was my first Calvino book, which next? 10 123 Jan 06, 2013 07:20AM  
Diogenes Club: Le città invisibili 18 24 Nov 27, 2012 08:15AM  
YA e dintorni: Le città invisibili: consiglio 4 17 Nov 27, 2012 07:02AM  
ketabi bas bi faiedeh va bikhod:( 1 19 Oct 20, 2007 03:25AM  
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Italo Calvino was born in Cuba and grew up in Italy. He was a journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952-1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If On a Winter's Night a Traveler (1979).

His style is not easily classified; much of his writing has an air of the fantastic...more
More about Italo Calvino...
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler The Baron in the Trees Cosmicomics Il cavaliere inesistente Marcovaldo

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“Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.” 214 likes
“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” 182 likes
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