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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities (edition 1997)

by Italo Calvino, William Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,793125733 (4.17)232
Title:Invisible Cities
Authors:Italo Calvino (Author)
Other authors:William Weaver (Translator)
Info:Minerva (1997), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 176 pages
Collections:Your library
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
    Ficciones 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 232 mentions

English (109)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  Dutch (3)  French (3)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Greek (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
If you set out to write novel without any characters or plot, you might end up with something like Italo Calvino's "Invisible Cities." It's fifty or so descriptions of imaginary cities tied together, more or less, by a frame tale describing the meeting between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. It's certainly imaginative and, in places, it's very beautiful: Calvino's writing is precise and his vocabulary seemingly boundless. It's easy to trace his obsessions: opposition, form and nothingness, signs and their meanings, the limits of language, the process of accretion and destruction, the long, slow cycles of history. Still, the lack of anything like a conventional plot makes it hard to really grab onto anything here. The author presents the reader with a series of beguiling concepts, enchanting images, and logical puzzles: "Invisible Cities" has sort of a "ViewMaster on acid" thing going on. But when it comes right down to it, the book is all setting: as with most post-everything lit, the whole enterprise often seems more clever than affecting. The most human element here seems to be the names of the cities themselves, as most of them seem to be named after women. Still, I'm not sure how much of the book I'll remember, what will stick with me and what won't, and, yes, I imagine that that's a proposition that Calvino himself might have enjoyed, or even intended. I can certainly see how this book might have had a profound influence on some modern fantasy authors, but I'm not sure that I enjoyed it. The book is, I'm sad to say, probably only readable because it's so short, and it might be one to savor at the pace of a chapter a day. I read in a rush for a book group, and that might have been a less-than-ideal situation. I'm glad that "Invisible Cities" exists, and it's likely that someone out there could make an argument that the book opened doors for the writers who followed Calvino. Next time, though, I'd actually like to see someone go through them. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Nov 12, 2015 |
Amazon: “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — from Invisible Cities

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.

“Invisible Cities changed the way we read and what is possible in the balance between poetry and prose . . . The book I would choose as pillow and plate, alone on a desert island.” — Jeanette Winterson" ( )
  clifforddham | Oct 20, 2015 |
“As Cidades Invisíveis” fundamentam bem todos os problemas levantados pelo estruturalismo. Aquilo que Calvino faz neste trabalho é puro experimentalismo matemático sem réstia de drama, tudo em nome de uma teorização insustentável. Não podemos sequer dizer que neste trabalho, e ao contrário de outros como “Palomar” ou “Se Numa Noite de Inverno um Viajante”, exista uma vontade de pôr à prova a estética literária, já que tudo se limita à experimentação estrutural.

Por outro lado, o livro acaba tendo um significado ainda maior, já que durante muitos anos tenho apontado a impossibilidade de se criarem histórias sem personagens. Ou seja, criar histórias fazendo uso apenas de mundos, ambientes, cenários e este trabalho de Calvino finalmente demonstra isso. Retirando os pequenos intermédios em que Marco Polo dialoga com Kublai Khan, o resto do livro é passado a descrever cidades, universos imaginários, no detalhe dos seus cenários, espaços e ambientes.

Deste modo, e na ausência de personagens que possam dramatizar esses universos, não surgem acções, e não surgindo estas, não pode surgir enredo. Logo temos em “As Cidades Invisíveis” um trabalho descritivo, ainda que matematicamente inovador e experimentalista, mas não narrativo.

Para alguns este pode representar o derradeiro trabalho construtivista, em que o leitor é chamado a co-criar a obra que lê, a preencher os espaços ausentes de personagens. Para mim, não passa de experimentalismo estruturalista, levar ao limite a estrutura narrativa, na ânsia de demonstrar o seu poder. Pede-se ao leitor, mas nada se oferece em troca. Estas abordagens dos anos 1960/70 foram novamente tentadas no final dos anos 1990, no mundo recente das narrativas interactivas, e mais uma vez se demonstrou toda a sua incapacidade para verdadeiramente envolver o receptor.

Se dou 4 estrelas, é pelo que demonstra o experimentalismo de Calvino, e não pela estética ou pelo que nos diz. Friso-o para que quem se aproximar deste livro, o faça sabendo disto, não se deixando enredar por elogios à obra totalmente descontextualizados. ( )
  nzagalo | Jul 24, 2015 |
This book is more about structure than actual story. There are only two characters; Marco Polo and Kublai Khan yet it really doesn’t occur in the 13th century yet is framed in a conversation between the explorer and the emperor. The chapters are short and describe a total of 55 cities with short dialogues between Polo and Khan. A wide range of topics is covered; linguistics, human nature, death, the continuation of ‘being’, environment, urban sprawl. It explores the questions of how we should live and the reader finds their own answer to this question and yet you never really understand the book but can reread it over and over. Here are some of my highlights. The quotes will give you a feel for the writing. It is not difficult, but the book is also structure on how the cities are presented. There are 11 groups; memory, desire, signs, thin, trading, eyes, names, dead, sky, continuous and hidden and then the 55 names of the cities but each group have 5 cities and you move from one group to the next in a stair stepping manner. Over all interesting and thought provoking but not a true novel in the sense of the word.

pg 66 “It is the mood of the beholder which gives the city of Zemrude its form. If you go by whistling, your nose a-tilt behind the whistle, you will know it from below: window sills, flapping curtains, fountains. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, the wastepaper.

pg 76 “...spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.

pg 82 “But which is the stone that the supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks. “The bridge is not supported by one stone or another.” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.” Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.” Polo answers: “Without stones there is no arch.”

pg 87 “Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased.”

pg 95 “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living.”

Pg 135...it is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.

pg 153 “The places have mingled, the goatheard said. “Cecili is everywhere. Here, once upon a time, there must have been the Meadow of the Low Sage. My goats recognize the grass on the traffic island.”

Loc 1209 “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 , 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 the inferno, are no inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” ( )
1 vote Kristelh | Apr 20, 2015 |
I am deliberately leaving this book unrated. If I were to rate it now, it would probably be ½* because I found it incomprehensible and pointless. It is, however, the first and so far only book by Calvino that I've read, and I plan eventually to read If on a Winter's Night a Traveler and perhaps some of the essays, following which I may decide to reread and reevaluate Invisible Cities. I might also add that I read Invisible Cities in a Kindle e-book, and it may be that this is the kind of book that requires reading on paper to better absorb.

Thus, for the time being, no rating — but with the intent perhaps later to reread and reevaluate.
  CurrerBell | Apr 5, 2015 |
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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)

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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)

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