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Invisible Cities

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  68,736 ratings  ·  4,859 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 (first published November 3rd 1972)
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Marco Fiemozzi If Venice, then the personal Venice of the fictional Marco Polo figure. It would have been your hometown if you had been the narrator, or rather your …moreIf Venice, then the personal Venice of the fictional Marco Polo figure. It would have been your hometown if you had been the narrator, or rather your hometown mixed with all places you have been living in. I think it is more an archetipical image of a city, you can even name it as you want, as Calvino writes near the end of the book.(less)

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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
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
Paul Bryant
Dec 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels, eurolit

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
Vit Babenco
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea.” Samuel Taylor ColeridgeKubla Khan
There are a countless number of cities but the most mysterious are those that we build in our imagination.
Marco Polo arrives and he tells Kublai Khan about ghostly cities he visited during his journeys…
Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could 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
Leonard Gaya
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
After travelling to the Far East for more than twenty years, Marco Polo sailed back to his Venice hometown and, upon arriving, was taken prisoner by the invading army of Genoa. And so his journey ended at the bottom of a cell. As a precursor of captive writers such as Cervantes or Dostoyevsky, Marco Polo then went on to write a large book about his travels: the Livre des merveilles du monde (Book of the Marvels of the World, ca. 1300 AD).

To us, 21st-century fast-paced tourists and business trave

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.


I’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 Kh
Ahmad Sharabiani
(350 From 1001 Books) - Le Citta Invisibili‬‬ = Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Invisible 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 c
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
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dr. Seuss

Stuff and nonsense! The old folks used to say - and our fantastic inner fantasies can take us there for sure. But watch out.

For traumatic thoughts may occur:

When to sweet sessions of silent thought
(We) summon up Remembrance of Things Past...

So said the Bard, suggesting posthumously to Scott Moncrieff a snappy title for his new English translation of La Recherche du Temps Perdu, with all its devastating aperçus!

For to some people the past is
Henry Avila
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Michael Finocchiaro
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 more fanciful and beautiful than the previous and there is
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
Nandakishore Mridula
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.)

Steven Godin
Enchanting and majestically spellbinding, Calvino weaves us with descriptive beauty through the picturesque travels of Marco Polo who talks of wondrous cities to the imperial Kublai Khan. Less of a story and more an ordering and reordering of the emotional and philosophical reverberations of our civilized world, with an elegant poetic prose per chapter which resulted in 165 pages of pure imaginative bliss.
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
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
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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
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
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
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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 easy to classify; much of his writing has an air reminiscent to th

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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.” 503 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.” 445 likes
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