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Invisible Cities

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  42,321 Ratings  ·  3,096 Reviews
"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 tell ...more
Paperback, 165 pages
Published 1974 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (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 his Venice and is remembered to this day as the greatest explorer and travel writer of all time. How did that co
Violet wells
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves, italy, classics
...A five star review...

I hate flying. The claustrophobia of it. So usually when I return to Italy after visiting London I catch the train to Paris and then the night train to Venice. That’s my little extravagance. I catch the night train to Venice and not Florence for one moment. The moment of walking out of the station of Santa Lucia and beholding the Grand Canal. I sit on the steps and let all the activity on the canal wash through me. I’m not sure why this moment means so much to me. It’s no
Apr 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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 th
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
Paul Bryant
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Empty your mind to spot the pattern in the chaos.
Recommended to Dolors by: Garima
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 representa
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: magical-realism

Image of new and old Shanghai, photographed by Greg Girard in 2000 (, 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.”


I’ve been eavesdropping on the mysterious, hypnotic conversations between a famous explorer from antiquity and the powerful emperor of a distant lan
You landed in my world on a calm, dewy evening
And struck was I with a song I was about to sing;
A song that lay hidden in the silhouettes of each letter
That protruded from the cover, all poised to embitter.

But waited I, patiently, under the light of the mundane day;
You see, Mr. Calvino, I had a knack of seeing your way.
Fusing the curious with the depth, and peppering them with some humor too;
All too often, you had served, a world that was both fictional and true.

So, on a fine evening, when all yo
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
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I live in a city, and every day I ride the subway with people who live in different cities. Aggressively loud teenagers, exhausted laborers with grimy hands, sparkling skinny women in careful clothes, Michael Cera: I don't think they would recognize my city.

But we find our city, and our city finds us, right? The Flamethrowers' artist Reno moves to a New York full of artists madly creating. Patrick Bateman is fake, and he lives in a fake New York. The Street's Lutie lives in a cruel New York, and
Dan Schwent
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Marco Polo and Kublai Khan talk of cities Marco has visited.

Where to begin with this one? I thought the writing was beautiful. Calvino and his translator painted vivid pictures of various cities, each a seemingly magical realm with its own quirks. As Marco tells more and more stories, Kublai questions the nature of his empire.

Unfortunately, very little actually happens. While they are very well written, the individual city tales read almost like entries in a poet's travel journal. There's not re
Rakhi Dalal
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

من و شيراز
خوب يادم است كه وقتى چهارده پانزده ساله بودم، در خيالاتم شيراز را شهرى تصور مى كردم با ساختمان هاى قديمى، با ايوان هاى كاشيكارى شده، و مخصوصاً با درخت هايى در هر خيابان كه در بهار گلبرگ هايشان با هر باد مى ريزد ميان خيابان و فرش راه عابران مى شود (بعدها اين صحنه را در باغ هاى بادام قزوين تجربه كردم). تصورى كه فكر مى كنم غربى ها تا پنجاه سال پيش از شرق داشتند.
و خوب يادم است كه وقتى در همان سال ها به شيراز سفر كردم، چقدر سرخورده شدم از خيابان هاى معمولى، با ساختمان هاى معمولى، با درخت ه
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
J.G. 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
Sep 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews

If on a winter's night a traveller were to set out to traverse the garden of forking paths, she could perhaps follow the moon in its flight to catch the sleepwalkers caught in a midsummer night's dream. She could walk east of Eden to see midnight's children appear, only to lose themselves into a frolic of their own. She could turn at a bend in the river to come upon the savage detectives figuring out the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime. She could walk up to the tree of smoke and fin
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
Mohsin Maqbool
THERE are books that you read and forget. And then there are books that you read and they get etched in your mind forever; Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ is one such book.

image: description
Marco Polo the magnificent.

Marco Polo visits the imperial palace of Chinese Emperor Kublai Khan and describes to him all the beautiful cities of the world that he has visited.
But can these magnificent cities really exist? Are they just a figment of Mr Polo’s imagination? Or is he just describing Venice while stretc
"What are men to rocks and mountains?" - Jane Austen
Or should I say, "What are men to cities and structures?"

I finish Invisible Cities as my parents plan their trip to Europe. As someone who loves going to new places and travelling, there is a sense of irony that I feel as I review this. As a 21 year old student with neither the money nor the means to embark on a journey myself, I find myself wandering about the cities that Marco Polo describes to the great Kublai Khan.

Invisible Cities is a f
Nandakishore Varma
Nov 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh,the city, city... the endless sea...
Fun and games on top, mud and filth beneath -
A beauty who smiles on the surface;
The mistress who wouldn't let you go...

So wrote one of our poets.

You live in the city: and slowly, the city starts living in you. It takes on a life of its own in your mind. Once the city gets to you, it won't let you go. (I speak from personal experience. I spent twelve eventful years of my life in Cochin, and I carry that city with me, even here in the Middle East.)

Italo Ca
Ahmad Sharabiani
350. Le citta invisibili = Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities (Italian: Le città invisibili) is a novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino. It was published in Italy in 1972 by Giulio Einaudi Editore. 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,
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos, italia, my-bib
Fui forasteira cega através destas 55 cidades só visíveis com os olhos da mente. São cidades deslumbrantes e inacreditáveis num mundo de fantasia que tanto me fez lembrar os cenários labirínticos de Jorge L. Borges.
Os livros não se leem todos da mesma maneira; As Cidades Invisíveis são para ler de mente aberta e vazia, deixando que as imagens se apossem de nós livremente, e a nossa imaginação as consolide.

Porém, estas cidades, os seus habitantes, as suas práticas, por mais absurdas e improvávei
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
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
Pradnya K.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, novella, 2016
I live in a city. It's not small, neither big but it's always happening. It's sheltered with huge green trees and the city looks like an emerald. When seasons change, the city changes its colors. It then resembles to red rubies or molten gold. I wish it'd be lapis lazuli once in a year. My city is strange in a way. It's a city I've always dreamt of since childhood when I just knew it by name. Accidentally I stumbled into it and never left. But I feel it hypnotized me, pulled me towards it and ne ...more
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Cities and Eyes

There is a world that lies atop a mound of green, where the treetops are tinged with rust and people fly by on bicycles and shoes with wheels. The saunterers wander off the criss-crossed madness of paths and cut up and down hills, across grassy plains, diving into the forested fringes.


We are on Mount Royal, the fabled dead volcano visited by schoolchildren on geography trips and tourists searching for a grander view of the city below. The air is crisp up here. Each inch of space
I think this short fiction is quite beautifully drawn, a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn that consists mostly of one enormous travelogue consisting of cities, their differences, and eventually, only their consistencies and made-made up features.

There's nothing much more to it except cities and brief descriptions of each, from ancient all the way to modern cities and even cities magical and purely imaginary. On a few occasions, there's a philosophical discussion about what is perceive
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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!
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
You: What is Invisible Cities?

[P]: A short Borgesian novel by Italo Calvino in which the traveller Marco Polo describes a series of [mostly fantastical] cities for the Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan.

You: What’s it all about?

[P]: I just told you.

You: No, you gave me a synopsis. What’s it really about? What was this Calvino guy trying to say?

[P]: Ah, shit.

You: You don’t know?

[P]: I’m not sure. It’s hard to explain. Marcel Proust once wrote, “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, favorites
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
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Play Book Tag: Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino - 3 stars 1 17 Mar 14, 2017 03:34AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add book cover 3 14 Oct 02, 2016 06:25PM  
Is there a Spanish translation? If so, how is it? 1 5 Aug 26, 2016 11:21PM  
Novels of very short stories or fragments 7 66 Dec 05, 2015 11:05AM  
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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 about Italo Calvino...
“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.” 404 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.” 347 likes
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