Invisible Cities

ISBN: 0099429837
ISBN 13: 9780099429838
By: Italo Calvino William Weaver

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About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts

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"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 justru terasa terlalu rendah hati.Buku ini memang unik luar biasa. dicetak dengan format pocket book--bahkan komik Doraemon pun masih lebih tebal-- cerita yang tersaji di dalamnya benar-benar memikat, meluber melebihi ukuran bukunya. Sebuah buku yang memanjakan mata akan bahasanya yang puitis dan memuaskan imajinasi dengan cerita yang menghanyutkan.Membaca buku ini laiknya membaca buku Mimpi-mimpi Einstein-nya Alan Lightman, di mana keindahan prosa puitis mengalir lancar sepanjang aliran cerita. Sangat kentara kalau Calvino memilih kata-kata dalam buku ini dengan sangat cermat. Bagaimana tidak, jika pengarang lain akan menghabiskan berlembar-lembar kata pujian dekriptif tentang suatu keindahan, Calvino cukup merangkumnya dalam satu kalimat saja. Tidak heran kan kalo novel ini menjadi novel bisa tipis nan imut? Para pujangga (amatiran) yang biasanya membuncah-buncah dalam berkata-kata mestinya malu pada Calvino.Isi ceritanya? saya setuju dg endorsementnya, kalau upaya untuk mengintisarikan isi novel ini akan sukar, dan mungkin jatuh pada kesia-siaan. Well, memang cara terbaiknya adalah membaca sendiri isi bukunya. Benar-benar keren. Sensasi ini mungkin akan dialami jika kita membaca mahakarya prosa puitis lainnya seperti karya Rumi atau Nietzche.Ok, saya akan berusaha merangkum ceritanya--cmiiw--. Kisah ini bercerita tentang perjalanan seorang penjelajah (dari Eropa) dalam mengunjungi negri-negri eksotis (di Asia?). Di mana dalam perjalanannya, dia mengunjungi kota-kota dengan keindahan sempurna pada zamannya. Sang penjelajah (teridentifikasi sebagai Marcopolo) menceritakan perjalanan menakjubkannya itu pada Sang Kaisar (Kubilai Khan) betapa kota-kota yang dia kunjungi begitu indah, modern, dan cantik. Sang Raja terpesona, dan meminta Sang penjelajah untuk terus bercerita. Uniknya, alih-alih menyebutkan nama kotanya, Calvino menyebutkan nama kotanya secara khayali dimana nama kota yg dia sebutkan tidak benar-benar ada di dunia, seperti Zora, Zirma, Eusaphia, dsb. Tapi, tak sebatas rincian keindahannya saja, Sang Penjelajah juga mengamati bahwa kota-kota tersebut dalam keadaan nyaris sekarat. Peperangan dan keterasingan nyaris meluluhlantahkan keindahan kota. Keindahan yang rapuh.Tapi, dengan mudah kita bisa menebak bahwa kota yang dimaksud Calvino adalah kota-kota di sekitar Asia Tengah, Asia Kecil, dan Asia Barat Daya. Soalnya, di abad pertengahan, ketika kota-kota Eropa sedang suram, kota-kota di Asia itu sedang cemerlang-secemerlangnya oleh keindahan arsitektur dan kemajuan ipteknya. Bahkan, kota yang berada di tengah gurun pun disulap menjadi istana megah dan lautan menara yang menjulang. Isfahan, Bukhara, Baku, Tashkent, dll telah menjadi simbol kemewahan dan modernitas pada masanya.Untungnya Marcopolo mengunjungi kota-kota eksotis tersebut dalam keadaan 'masih hidup'. Soalnya, tak lama kemudian, akibat peperangan dan keserakahan, kota-kota itu hilang, lenyap, sekarat, dan bangkrut. Bahkan sampai sekarang pun, kota-kota itu hanya dikenal sebagai kota tua yang eksotik, dan mati suri. Simbol modernitas masa lampau ituh malah menjadi ikon kota yang ketinggalan zaman dewasa ini. Dan Calvino dengan briliannya menceritakan keindahan kota itu secara dramatis pada detik-detik kejatuhannya. Sulit bukan menggambarkan sesuatu yang indah tapi sekaligus saat itu dia sedang mati suri dan sekarat? Calvino berhasil melakukannya. Dengan cemerlang dan apik.Dari sejarah kita tahu bahwa kota-kota indah itu --yang keindahannya menimbulkan romantisme dan mitos hingga sekarang--, kebanyakan dibangun oleh bangsa Mongol. Padahal yang namanya bangsa Mongol adalah bangsa yang suka berperang. Mereka tak segan-segan membunuh semua penduduk suatu kota. bangsa Mongol hanya mengijinkan hidup para seniman saja. Mereka dipaksa membangun kota yang lebih indah dari asalnya. kota yang dimatikan untuk dihidupkan.Konon Hulagu Khan membuat piramid dari tengkorak manusia. Alhasil, kota yang dibangun itu, di balik kemegahannya, ternyata sangat rapuh. Di balik dinding-dinding marmer mulusnyanya tersimpan kebusukan yang akan menggerogoti keabadiannya. lambat laun, kota-kota itu hilang dari peta bumi. Yah, seperti itulah gambaran kasar 'Kota-kota Imajiner'. Benar-benar harus mebacanya sendiri untuk ikut hanyut dalam romantime kota-kota ini. Mambaca buku ini kita seakan melancong ke sebuah negri asing yang hanya ada dalam dongeng. Kita akan memasuki relung-relung istana yang mewah sekaligus berdarah. seperti yang digambarkan Calvino tentang kota yang bernama Zora, "...Zora telah merana, terpecah belah, sirna. Bumi telah melupakannya...."Ironisnya, bahkan proses kota yang sekarat masih terus berlangsung dewasa ini. Bisa kita lihat bahwa kebanyakan kota yang mendapat julukan metropolitan, justru adalah kota-kota yang bisa dikatakan sebagai kota gagal... Kesenjangan sosial, kriminalitas, kerapuhan nilai susila hingga ketimpangan ekosistem, membuat bangunan megah nan menjulang hanya sebagai topeng bagi wajah kota yang bopeng...berikut ada pujian dari majalah Times Literary Suplement yang prestisius itu,".... mendedahkan ide, kiasan, dan wawasan imajinatif yang mempesona hampir di setiap halamannya..."

Guido

Vorrei spiegare perché questo libro merita di essere letto, ricordato e amato, ma non è facile. Terminata la lettura, non si è certi della vera natura dell'esperienza vissuta viaggiando attraverso luoghi così astratti e unici: ciascuna città richiama dettagli, difetti, tendenze presenti in tutte le nostre città, ma anche e soprattutto ricordi, amori passati e futuri, persone conosciute e mai dimenticate, sensazioni sepolte dall'età sotto qualche strato di inutile realismo; qualcosa che abbiamo imparato a immaginare e vivere in pieno da bambini e poi abbandonato, e che Calvino decide, con chissà quale strumento letterario, di restituirci.Delle città surreali evocate in questo libro, esplorate o immaginate da Marco Polo per Kublai Kan e ricreate dal mercante veneziano per la mente del condottiero mongolo con oggetti, gesti, salti e grida, e solo più tardi con parole, resta qualcosa di importantissimo nel lettore: ricordi che pensavo di aver perduto, luoghi di cui non sentivo parlare da troppo tempo, e un originalissimo modo di interpretare gli spazi della realtà in cui viviamo.L'ultimo commento che posso fare è questo: se non avete una copia del "Milione" di Marco Polo, procuratevi quella curata e riscritta da Maria Bellonci, aiuterà a capire molti riferimenti di Calvino a Marco Polo e al suo modo di raccontare, e i due libri finiscono, in qualche modo, per completarsi a vicenda, e non saprei dire quale dei due sia più legato alla realtà e quale al sogno e alla necessità di immaginare luoghi lontani e sorprendenti.

Paul

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.

Rosana

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 book, which is very elusive: almost impossible to grasp, just glimpse. Yet, at moments, it surprisingly takes form and content with obvious clarity. How to define it? A series of poetic parables with ambiguous meanings, surprises and fantastic geography? Dreams or nightmares full of longing, desire and enchantment? A travel book for terra incognita? Probably all of the above and none of it. I loved it!

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 years this book has followed me to the humid climes of Malaya, various burros of New Yuck, and finally to the city that Calvino as the slightly more eccentric of his two alter-egos described as "span[ning] the Golden Gate and the bay with long, light bridges... open trains climbing its steep streets, and which might blossom as capital of the Pacific a millennium hence, after the long siege of three hundred years that would lead the races of the yellow and the black and the red to fuse with the surviving descendants of the whites in an empire more vast than the Great Khan's."*That's eleven years of guilt and inadequacy, eleven years of I tried that and I do not like it, eleven years of bitter resentment at the fawning of easily impressed literary types over post-modernist drivel...Eleven years of being completely and totally wrong. This is brilliant. It is about cities and stories, about the way both cities and stories endure and yet are in constant motion, about the aggregations of death and life they contain. I read this, of course, as a former New Yorker. Just as Marco Polo saw Venice everywhere, so did so many of the Venetian's descriptions of fantastical cities (that are all really Venice) evoke for me the way New York could change (to paraphrase Joss Whedon about one of his actors) "from Jack Benny to Dracula in a heartbeat." Calvino gets how the beauty, Gothic horrorshow, stress, and fun of city life are all mixed up together in one big pot of crazy, how in fact your Gothic horrorshow may be someone else's fun, and so on and so forth. I guess all writers who write about city life, or post-war America, or their cats, okay, basically all writers, try to get at this point, but in doing so directly, with realistic characters and dialogue, they don't capture the absurdity in all its stripes the way Calvino does here.That brings me to the voice... If you are anything like twenty-three- to thirty-two-year-old me you will hate the voice of this book. It is as affected and twee as the giggle of a Japanese teenager. And that's where it all comes back to timing. It wasn't just that I had never lived in a city for longer than two months when I first picked up this book and couldn't connect with the subject matter the way that I can today. It's also that my life entered a moment of peak absurdity around the time I picked up this book a second time, and so I took to its absurd voice and general absurdly absurd absurdness like Calvino to a striking series of unrelated objects.In 165 pages, Calvino will show you both the pitchest blacks and silliest joys of the universe and leave you sighing with recognition and relief.* Whoa. Italo Calvino totally saw my Facebook feed.

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 book that you open, any new author that you discover is judged against your favorites, against the voices that stimulated your mind over the years. Words and phrases are judged against those that provided comfort when you felt down; ideas and executions are compared against the benchmarks established over the years. You think you know what you like; you think you know what to expect. Well, perhaps you do. New books come along, and some attempt to quietly sneak in to your consciousness, while others attempt to shatter your world. Most, if not all, pale with your favorites, do not fit with your ideas, or leave you cold. Then, one day, you come across a gently used book. It's small, it looks interesting, and you buy it. That book manages to get under your skin in a very inconspicuous way, without you even noticing. Such was my encounter with Invisible Cities. My first Italo Calvino. He arrived on the heels of Bolaño, Borges, Ungar, and Girondo. Good company, you might say. I say no. Bolaño left me lukewarm—I was expecting more. Borges blew my mind—but only temporarily—he is amazing, but very systematic. Ungar was great—while reading him. Girondo was thought-provoking—entertaining but not mind-altering. Calvino managed to deliver where all of the above failed. He did not force his way to me, he came unsuspected, veiled in beautiful prose. All of the aforementioned authors wrote fine literature, amazing actually. Yet, they were all "in your face" at times. Calvino is like a spy who sneaks in under the cover of darkness. And here comes the strangest part: I haven't even noticed. To be honest, I cannot quite describe what kind of book is Invisible Cities. At first, I thought I knew. Then I thought I did not know, then I thought I knew again, and, in the end, I was reminded that I did not know. The book is simply beautiful. It is irrelevant and relevant at the same time, pointless and necessary at other times, while remaining non-contradictory. Does this make sense? I thought so. To me, Invisible Cities is not a single book, but three separate books. The first one is a wonderful study of humanity. These are the cities that reflect human behavior, the cities that serve as metaphor for greed, anger, vanity, et cetera. The second book is a book of cautionary tales. These are the cities that tell a story, a story of what will happen if we, as humans, do not change our ways. The third book is a book of philosophy. These are the cities as metaphors for mortality, actions and consequences, continuity, faith... To this book also belong the conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, for these are truly philosophical. Then again, I am probably wrong on all counts. One thing is certain, and that is the undeniable truth that Italo Calvino was an amazing writer. His prose is magical. So now, after more than two decades of reading what I consider to be quality literature, I have to shuffle my mental shelf and make room for Calvino, right next to my all-time favorites where he belongs.

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. Cities; rising with dusk, their pulses throbbing to the rhythm of stars. Cadence of street lights; illuminating in its glow, the stones of the wall of a building standing silently and witnessing bare human emotions/acts – love, passion, deceit, despair, joy, pain, indifference but above all a discreteness embodying the city. Cities, with its uneven alleys where an old man sit outside the door of his house, the wrinkles on his face telling the story of his life, his eyes a testimony of submission in the face of the inevitable, and a young, beautiful woman, selling seasonal flowers by the side; unnerving a quiescent thought. The labyrinthine roads which never seem to end, taking one forward, on and on, with their flow, adding a clutter of houses by the side, a face sneaking from a window; seeming a gateway to the unknown. The outline of houses in the sea by which they stand; the shadows in clear water defying the ephemeral. Cities, with those parks and boulevards where a curious seeker seeks the traces of path trodden by great authors and thinkers; an eagerness to associate with that one idea, a particular thought, capable of creating a summer inside….. Let me seek those cities O my mind, cities invisible but living inside me….

Ian Paganus

Hidden Cities * 6You 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! I returned nine years later, and departed again for China within two years. In all, I had just eight years to picture my city. The truth is, I know your city and this garden better than I know my home, if that is what it is.It’s true, I was saying something about Venice. I was defining what it was not. If I could describe cities that were exceptions, exclusions, incongruities, contradictions, then I hoped that what would remain would be the rule, the essence, and perhaps that essence would be Venice. If I could describe everything that was impossible, improbable, even too probable, then what would be left would be real, and what was real would be Venice, at least for me.This was my desire. I had no memory to speak of. There was nothing to be nostalgic about. I did not have words. I didn’t have things. I had only images of things. Admittedly, they were childish images in my mind. Besides, they were not many. They were mainly images of our family home: our garden, our kitchen, my bedroom. Little more. I was afraid that, if I put these images into words, I would lose them. I reserved words for everything else. I kept them for things that needed signs. My images of Venice didn’t need signs. They were emblems in their own right.I hoped these images of when I was six or 17 would form a kernel around which my dreams of Venice would grow. As I experienced other cities, as I dreamed of invisible cities, what I learned would not supplant these images. It would grow around them and protect and preserve them. My images would be both contained and concealed. They would be emblems within emblems.In this way, I hoped that my images would not languish, that they would not disintegrate, that they would not disappear. I hoped that I would not forget them. Most of all, though, I was trying to preserve objects, things. Not words, phrases, metaphors. In the absence of words, I couldn’t utilise language, and if I couldn’t utilise language, I couldn’t communicate with you. For you to know Venice, you would have to see it for yourself, and I knew there was little prospect of your leaving your Court.There was a time when I thought you might wish to visit Venice. If I made it seem alluring, you might desire it. If I made it seem powerful, you might fear it, so much so that you would have to wrestle its power from it. I was relieved when you said, “I have neither desires nor fears.”I preserved Venice from and for you without words. I hoped not to deceive you in doing so. There is no language without deceit. Conversely, there is no deceit without language.Words work by way of distinctions. Words distinguish things from each other. I was trying to describe many cities for your edification. To distinguish these cities’ qualities, it’s true, I had to speak of a first city that would remain implicit. I told you that city was Venice. It had to remain implicit, because I lacked the knowledge or the will or the ability to make it explicit. Instead, I invented cities like Esmeralda and Phyllis that contained canals and boats and barges, so that you could imagine your own Venice.The irony is that you think of Venice more than I do. As fond of it as I am, I try to think of it as little as possible. If I dwelled on it, I’d worry that it would turn into words, and if it turned into words, then, as I’ve said, it might vanish.I wish that Venice didn’t even have a name. It would be so much easier to think of it as pure form, like a philosopher, as absolute truth, beauty, perfection, as the essence of a city, as not just the city of my youth, but the essence of every city.Venice doesn’t need words. I don’t need words for Venice. If I needed anything, I would need only images. And images of Venice await my return.Giardino Giusti

MJ Nicholls

I read the edition translated into Scots by Wullie Weaver. Here are a few excerpts:Repulsive Cities ∙ 2The 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, something to lift this horrible land to a brighter plateau. In every repulsive city there is a gem, a signal: the kindly arms of naïve temptresses.Backward Cities ∙ 5In a field of obtuse posies I come across a farmer, tilling the field with his bent hoe, straining crops into order. “Quaint vassal, wherefore the heart of this green desert?” I ask. “In the shiny breasts of my daughter, that’s where, oh-lordy-aye,” he says. Across the road I spy a girl with the face of this man, his features as though transcribed on her red-rosied skin. All around me, a tissue of incestuous progenies, mixing their colours, discussing the fastest route into hell, where redemption no longer achieves the mythos of a dream.Pretentious Cities ∙ 1Among the golden buttresses sits a Lord, his luxurious grey beard brushing the bespectacled inhabitants, reading from the Great Works. Etched in history, the builders and planners, their names spelt in flashing neon clouds, passing through the streets, filling the people with words and ideas. Down the street a gemstone, doused in the milks of the Great Poets, where scholars feed from, where the fools are sacrificed at the altar of knowledge.

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 the Barbarian soundtrack. Despite the inarguable greatness of Basil Poledouris’ score, however, I have no doubt that it was this book that ultimately moved me to an epidermal state that has no business budding on a summer day in Texas. It’s that good—a philosophical gem and a gratifying guide for the adventurous mind and wonder-full spirit. It took two or three city descriptions for me to realize that Marco Polo wasn't describing cities so much as the human mind and experience. Rather than take away from the beautiful physicality of the descriptions, however, this gives the book a limitless pleasure and depth. How to describe it? It's like a children's book for adults. There's this magical other-world, other-time feel that's complex and meaningful and gorgeous. Think about a fairy tale with its shiny storyline, ex facie, that's also serving up something edifying and subtextual. Invisible Cities is the grown-up version. And the descriptions are often just curious and strange enough that you can come away with multiple meanings, in part determined by your current mental/emotional state. Sometimes I was too puzzled or infatuated with the physical description to divine much of anything coherent, but this serves to make the inevitable reread that much more appealing. As Calvino via Polo tells us, it is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear. Amen.

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 land( or should i say dream !)scapes. When the book began, I was trying to make sense of the names of the cities as Marco described them but then somewhere along the flow of the book the names of the cities did not matter. At some points it is the travel to reach the city that matters, at others it could be a street in the city that holds your attention & at other times it could be the glimpse of a face at the window if just for a second ; these are the remembrances the book left me with. The cities that Marco Polo describes to the Emperor all maybe begin and end with the narrator's home : Venice. It is from a subtly vague remembrance of Venice that Marco might begin describing a tale. From this might branch the alleys, by lanes and streets of a distant city. Whether the city might be a dream or reality is something that is hinted in the book at many a place. The traveler takes the emperor through many a facet of the cities : through resplendent glory & Opulence to death & decay ; through cities built within cities & alternate realities to crumbling dust of once glorious townships & mazes of cities from which there is no return. Keeping Polo's descriptions aside, the insightful dialog that passes between the two are wonderful to say the least. One of those books where I never skipped through pages...there were too few to skip any way !!!Recommended to all those who would want a dreamy journey through imaginary landscapes of beauty & grace...One of those wonderful lines in the book as said by Marco Polo when asked to describe Venice by the emperor : Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased. 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.

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 fragments of beautiful imagery and poignant observations that the reader is to walk away with after reading this? If so, then I need to re-read it with that in mind - maybe just pick it up from time to time and read a random chapter to get the mental wheels spinning. If not, then I need to re-read it with a keener mindset, and I need to talk with 'someone' about what I've missed.Either way, looks like this one should never be far from my reach.

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 though each city is a lie, each city, too, holds a kernel of some deeper truth about life - and isn't that what literature is all about? Truth through falsity?And our lives are expanded through falsities and half-truths and unknowables. Every person we meet, every thing we see, everything we hear, expands our consciousness and adds value to our lives. It's how we compile these sensory experiences that defines our lives, that makes a "heaven out of hell, or a hell out of heaven," so to speak. Perspective is the flavor of life and no two people have the same tastes. But can we have more tastes than one? I suspect a good novelist can taste life through a number of different perspectives than their own, which makes fiction so appealing to us, every book a new flavor, a new perspective: getting closer to that singular truth.For Marco Polo, the singular truth at the heart of Invisible Cities is the one city which he really knows, which he really loves, which to him is everything: Venice. At one and the same time, he seems to know everything about Venice, yet seems also to be doggedly search for the heart of it; has it firmly in his grasp, yet is ceaselessly losing 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.” Perhaps he is losing it piece by piece because city by imaginary city he is uncovering it. The mystery which remained for him in Venice, which he hoped to preserve, he loses little by little in getting at the truth of the illusory metropolises of his mind. When you escape into a good book, the world falls away from you, you are transported, but when you return the world is not quite the way it was before: there is a different color to the sunlight, a different touch to your bedsheets, a different feel of the wind at your back on a hot summer day. Something is added to your appreciation of the world you live in: but maybe not - maybe it is that something is taken away, some barrier torn down, some dust wiped away, which makes your vision clearer.

Francesco Fantuzzi

E Polo: - L'inferno dei viventi non è qualcosa che sarà; se ce n'è uno, è quello che è già qui, l'inferno che abitiamo tutti i giorni, che formiamo stando insieme. Due modi ci sono per non soffrirne. Il primo riesce facile a molti: accettare l'inferno e diventarne parte fino al punto di non vederlo più. Il secondo è rischioso ed esige attenzione e apprendimento continui: cercare e saper riconoscere chi e che cosa, in mezzo all'inferno, non è inferno, e farlo durare, e dargli spazio. Vorrei partire proprio da queste poche parole, la cifra conclusiva di questo breve romanzo, per metterne in luce le migliori sue qualità. Innanzitutto mi preme enfatizzare la dimensione etica di tale narrazione. La pericope citata rappresenta un monito all'uomo di sempre, sospeso tra bene e male, invischiato in una lotta nella quale è la parte peggiore quella che, apparentemente, sembra sempre avere la meglio. Questo monito ci parla ancora oggi (e più che mai), ci invita a non lasciare la parola definitiva sulla nostra esistenza a un abbrutimento, sebbene ci appaia soverchiante. Dare fiducia a quella beatitudine minoritaria, che appare schiacciata nel mondo d'oggi, può rappresentare una scommessa che vale la pena lanciare. E' bello sapere che, nel passato, abbiamo avuto scrittori e intellettuali capaci di slancio profetico, che non indietreggiavano davanti alla dimensione dell'etica. Purtroppo in tanta narrativa di oggi mi pare ci sia piuttosto quell'adeguarsi all'inferno, di cui qui si è parlato.Gli altri motivi di pregio di questo libro sono altrettanto importanti. Balza agli occhi una scrittura virtuosistica, che sembra giocare con una facilità sovrumana con l'arte della variazione. Le parole di Marco Polo dipingono all'interlocutore città attraverso una molteplicità di lenti di rifrazione diverse, da far nascere il sospetto nel lettore: tante città? Una sola? La città si trasforma in espediente della coscienza che vede il mondo. E lo vede in molti modi diversi, attraverso caratterizzazioni peculiari (quel paio di lenti) che si ripropongono più volte, come testimoniano i titoletti di ognuna. Infatti ogni città ha un suo nome, ma nell'architettura del libro viene indicata da un titoletto che dichiara il punto di vista (le città e la memoria; le città e il desiderio; le città e i segni e così via) affiancato da un numero progressivo, testimonianza per questo gusto per la variazione (del quale Calvino non ha mai mancato di professare un certo apostolato).Altra fondamentale caratteristica calviniana è il gusto per la parola, la sapienza nell'uso di un lessico che sia anche, contemporaneamente, suono e azione. Anche in questo l'autore dimostra un virtuosismo fuori dal comune.Perché non ho attribuito le (meritatissime) cinque stellette? Perché riservo quell'ultima a una componente volubile, il gusto personale. Esaltante e trascinante questo romanzo a livello intellettuale: una grandissima opera. Il mio coinvolgimento personale, però, non è stato viscerale (del resto Calvino non è autore di questo genere), perciò lascio l'esclusiva della quinta stella a quei romanzi e racconti che custodiscono con sé una parte della mia esistenza. Tutto qui.

gieb

intinya, manusia itu pencari kepastian. tanpa kepastian manusia hidup dalam gelisah. seperti kematian. kepastian apa setelah mati? iya kalau surga neraka itu ada. kalau tak ada? manusia tak mau hidupnya dikerjai. mereka menamainya teka-teki. beberapa malas menjawab teka-tekinya. sebagian tidak. salah satunya adalah italo calvino dalam kota-kota imajiner ciptaannya ini.italo menulis dengan rasionalitas yang penuh irasional. ia bongkar pasang apa yang dinamakan KOTA. ia kunyah setiap pertanyaan dan detail. ia bongkar makna kota sehingga tidak tahu lagi maknanya. tapi ia tidak menolaknya. kota bentukan italo menggantikan posisi keyakinan. bahwa kota adalah sekumpulan pikir. tetapi juga sekelumpulan sampah, binatang, dan jembatan. yang jangan-jangan, sekarang sudah menjadi tuhan.seperti saya yang terjebak dalam JAKARTA. saya hanya tahu keberangkatan. sehingga lupa akan sebuah kepulangan. sublim dan subtil. katanya.

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