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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
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Invisible Cities (edition 1997)

by Italo Calvino, William Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,886136710 (4.17)247
Member:ed.pendragon
Title:Invisible Cities
Authors:Italo Calvino (Author)
Other authors:William Weaver (Translator)
Info:Minerva (1997), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:literature, magic realism

Work details

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

  1. 130
    Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both have wonderfully imaginative but controlled semiotic exercises.
  2. 112
    The City & The City by China Miéville (snarkhunt)
    snarkhunt: Calvino's book is a travelogue of impossible societies while China's book is a sweet little noir stuck in the middle of one.
  3. 102
    Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: Both books are liesurely contemplations of fantastical situations, not plot- or character-driven, but conceptual.
  4. 51
    The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (Torikton)
  5. 30
    Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer (spiphany)
  6. 20
    Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: Thes two books are in some ways very like each other, and in some ways quite the opposite. In Mr Palomar various locations, things, and thoughts are described precisely with the utmost eloquence and detail, whereas in Invisible Cities, it is one place being described in many different ways, hazy, as if seen through lenses of different qualities, and warping mirrors. But the effect is much the same, both books give you something to think about, make you see things in different ways, and are a pleasure to read. Both books also contain no strong plot, and consist of many small and diverse sections, and in a way, could be dipped into. Where Palomar gets very much into the mind of the protagonist, and his fixed, elaborate, and definite interpretations of reality, Invisible Cities is similar in that the recollections are also told from the point of view of the narrator, but differ each time, none being tied to reality, all of them containing aspects of truth found through how you interpret them. If you enjoyed reading one of these books, you should enjoy the other.… (more)
  7. 20
    Tainaron: Mail from Another City by Leena Krohn (ari.joki)
    ari.joki: An allegory of the human condition by revealing one facet at a time through presenting a foreign, strange city with foreign, strange inhabitants.
  8. 20
    Solution 11-167: The Book of Scotlands by Momus (Kolbkarlsson)
    Kolbkarlsson: Written in the same vein, The Book of Scotlands lists a series of alternative scotlands previously unheard of. Every Scotland is written in it's own style, but with similar wit and daunting imagination.
  9. 10
    Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson (WSB7)
    WSB7: Each has a partially factual/partially imagined frame.
  10. 10
    Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente (PhoenixFalls)
  11. 21
    Viriconium: "The Pastel City", "A Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" by M. John Harrison (Torikton)
  12. 00
    Ailleurs : Voyage en Grande Garabagne - Au pays de la Magie - Ici, Poddema by Henri Michaux (claudiamesc)
    claudiamesc: Visionario, delirante, spietato, un bellissimo libro... un viaggio attraverso popoli dell'immaginazione, per chi si è già fatto trasportare da Marco Polo...
  13. 00
    Freud's Alphabet: A Novel by Jonathan Tel (hdcanis)
    hdcanis: A novel starring a historical person (Marco Polo or Sigmund Freud) exploring a city (Venice or London) in fragmentary manner, each fragment handling a different aspect of the city.
  14. 00
    The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M. C. A. Hogarth (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Vignettes that create a picture of something greater.
  15. 00
    Urville by Gilles Trehin (VanishedOne)
    VanishedOne: One imagines many cities impressionistically, the other one city precisely, but each offers a window onto imaginary urban environments.
  16. 00
    Dreams and stones by Magdalena Tulli (DieFledermaus)
  17. 11
    Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin (spiphany)
  18. 22
    The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Alberto Manguel (VanishedOne)
    VanishedOne: One is systematic and compendious, the other flows freely from one impression to another, but both flit between windows onto imaginary vistas.
  19. 01
    A Mapmaker's Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice by James Cowan (Poquette)
  20. 06
    Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements by Richard J.F. Day (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: For most this would seem like a quite odd recommendation, but give it a read if you are at all politically minded and you can see a connection.

(see all 20 recommendations)

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» See also 247 mentions

English (118)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Greek (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (135)
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
It's all familiar, all completely new. "'I speak and speak...but the listener retains only the words he is expecting...It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.'" Ostensibly a meditation on people and the ways they choose to assemble themselves. One of those books that is deceptively slim and yet surprisingly dense. This is an interactive book – Calvino’s writing demands it. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Just beautiful. ( )
  joyhclark | Jan 20, 2016 |
I found this book to be very interesting. I loved the descriptions of all the cites but they were too much to take in on one reading. This is a book that needs to be read slowly and often in order to devour all the information. ( )
  eadieburke | Jan 19, 2016 |
This is a difficult book to summarize and review. I almost felt like I was looking at a series of portraits instead of reading a novel. Each section begins and ends with a conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about the various cities that Polo has seen in his travels through Khan’s empire. In between these are descriptions of the cities themselves, each more fantastical and metaphorical than the last.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. The nature of time and change were important themes. At times it was beautiful, like a work of art or a prose poem; at other times it was downright confusing or even a little disturbing. I almost feel like I needed to read it slowly, one section at a time (like I would with a collection of poems) instead of racing through it in two days (like I did). ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
Reread in July 2015. Review stands


Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
★★★.5 (2 star for enjoyment, an extra 1.5 for appreciation of writing and style).

Invisible Cities is a series of imaginary conversations between a young Marco Polo and an aging Kublai Khan. Marco Polo describes a series of cities he has encountered (or has he?) on his travels. The cities are arranged in a numerical sequence of 11 groups: Cities and memory, cities & desire, cities and signs, thin cities, trading cities, cities and eyes, cities and names, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, continuous cities, & hidden cities. The descriptions of the various cities read more like poetry than prose and are interspersed by conversations between Marco Polo and Khan.

Wow, this was a confusing book. I feel like it is virtually impossible to describe this book to anyone else in a meaningful way. It’s filled with themes about imagination, language and communication, future of humanity, reflections on past, present, & future, etc. I didn’t particularly enjoy it—I had to concentrate very hard to stay focused (falling asleep on several occasions when reading it). The cities blend together (especially at the beginning) making it hard to remember any one city and leave the reader questioning whether they are all the same city. The structure of the book is interesting and deviates from the norm. The climax (if you can call it that) is in the middle of the book, there is no build up to the conclusion, and the chapters are a mix of dreamlike reflections that are organized in a numerical sequence that I had to plot out on paper to see a pattern emerge (which I did about ¾ of the way through the book as I was trying to make sense of everything.

It’s a book that I would need to read multiple times to fully understand but was hard work to read through the first time so the prospect of reading it again soon is unpleasant. Initially, I found myself rushing through it and feeling bored. So, I chose a different way of reading: I started reading one chapter at a time, taking breaks between each chapter to think about themes and trying to visualize each city. It made it much more enjoyable.

For those interested: I found this art exhibit inspired by the book. You can see it at this link. I wish I had read this book while the exhibit was in town. http://www.arcspace.com/exhibitions/unsorted/invisible-cities/
( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 118 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Calvino, Italoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baranelli, LucaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kapari, JormaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nieuwenhuyzen, KeesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pasolini, Pier PaoloAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlot, HennyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walsmith, SheltonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expedition, 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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156453800, Paperback)

"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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In Kublai Khan's garden, at sunset, the young Marco Polo diverts the aged emperor from his obsession with the impending end of his empire with tales of countless cities past, present, and future.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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