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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
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Invisible Cities (edition 1997)

by Italo Calvino (Author), William Weaver (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,475111793 (4.19)172
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. 120
    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. 92
    Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: Both books are liesurely contemplations of fantastical situations, not plot- or character-driven, but conceptual.
  4. 41
    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: "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
    The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M. C. A. Hogarth (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Vignettes that create a picture of something greater.
  14. 00
    The Fear of Losing Eurydice by Julieta Campos (StevenTX)
    StevenTX: Both authors explore the literary metaphors of cities (Calvino) and islands (Campos) as variations on an idea. The island city of Venice is central to both works.
  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. 12
    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 172 mentions

English (97)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Greek (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Um dos melhores textos escritos no século XX. Leitura fundamental para todos.

Com uma "prosa-poética", muita filosofia e rara criatividade o autor nos apresenta relatos fictícios de cidades que o viajante Marco Polo faz ao soberano Kublai Khan. Com uma inventividade fora do comum, Ítalo Calvino vai descrevendo a estrutura e a alma de diversas cidades (todas com nomes de mulheres) onde o leitor reconhece facilmente aspectos intrínsecos ao ser humano, tanto as virtudes como os defeitos, tanto as grandes obras quanto as mais baixas ações.

Impossível não se encantar com cada linha deste livro, com cada surpreendente cidade e com os comentários de Marco Polo e o grande Khan. O próprio autor reconhece que este foi o trabalho em que ele mais falou sobre assuntos diversos e apesar disso, o livro tem apenas 152 páginas. Um livro de cabeceira para ser lido e relido várias vezes, mas que sempre mostrará novas esquinas, novas casas e novas cidades. ( )
  Binderman | Aug 16, 2014 |
Imaginative, clever, poetic, mathematical, and oh so postmodern -- and yet this at times delightful, at times frustrating book didn't really speak to me. I am hugely impressed by what Calvino set out to do, but it just didn't grab me.

Set off by ongoing conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about cities Polo has ostensibly visited, Calvino describes a series of cities, each briefly, cities mostly with women's names and all, as the reader finds out, based on Venice. Or are they? Each has some aspects of "real" cities and some completely fanciful and imaginary aspects, and needless to say some are more interesting than others. For example, the citizens of Baucis live on platforms that extend stilt-like into the clouds, from which they look down at the earth, "leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence," while the city of Adelma is a city of the dead, where Polo thinks " 'Perhaps Adelma is the city where you arrive dying and where each finds again the people he has known. That means I, too, am dead.' "

One of the most intriguing things about the book is the mathematical logic with which it is organized. The cities are assigned categories, such as "cities and memory," "cities and desire," "thin cities," "trading cities," "continuous cities," "cities and the dead," and so on, and then each of the cities within a category is numbered, so that the first chapter is "Cities and memories 1" and then later iterations are "Cities and memories 2," "Cities and memories 3," and so on. Both the numbers and the categories are arranged mathematically, but I don't know enough mathematics to describe what the sequences are. The numbers go 1, then 2, 1, then 3, 2, 1, then 4, 3, 2, 1, then repeat the sequence 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for several sections, and then wind down 5, 4, 3, 2, followed by 5, 4, 3, followed by 5, 4, and ending with 5. The categories are grouped so first there is memory, then memory and desire, then memory and desire and signs, then memory and desire and signs and thin, then memory and desire and signs and thin and trading, and then start to drop some categories and add others, but still in a recognizable sequence.

Impressed as I am by this and by other aspects of the book, I really don't know what Calvino was trying to do. Certainly he was speaking about how humans organize themselves in cities, and about the role of imagination, and possibly about history. Interestingly, although Kublai Khan and Marco Polo lived in the 13th century, this book includes references to airplanes and other technologies that first existed in the 20th century, as well as to an atlas that Kublai Khan has that contains maps of cities that didn't yet exist, like New York.

Maybe postmodern writing isn't for me, although I bought this book in response to comments on my review of Magdalena Tulli's Dreams and Stones (which I loved), a book that also deals with a mythical city (and Tulli is apparently a translator of Calvino). However, while illusive and allusive like this work by Calvino, the Tulli has more direction instead of being quite as amorphous as this book is. I'm really left sort of scratching my head and not very engaged.
1 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 30, 2014 |
This is a hard book to rate. At its best, it is mesmerizing and unique. It creates an imaginative universe of imaginary cities like none you've ever pictured before. My favorite was a city that created a twin city of the dead underground, where they placed the skeletons in positions as if they were doing jobs, but then as the underground city started to slowly evolve the above-ground one mirrored it, until it became unclear which city was copying which and which was the primary one. Dozens and dozens of cities like these are depicted in prose poems generally of one to three pages.

These descriptions of cities are framed by a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan about these cities, a dialogue that is highly abstract and yet also feels completely real, like something Calvino discovered rather than created.

The downside of Invisible Cities is that, at least for me, it did not repay a reading from beginning to end, even one that I did relatively slowly over the course of a few weeks. I loved many individual parts, liked the impression of the whole, but never fully "understood" it as a unified work of fiction and often felt like flipping through some of the cities. So, at least for me, it is a book I plan to dip back into random chapters in the future rather than read from beginning to end. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
On the most basic level, this is a book that imagines Marco Polo describing cities he has seen on his travels to Kublai Khan, but there is so much more to this book. Calvino makes every word count, describing each city with an element of the fantastic that makes you feel as though you might be reading poetry. It definitely doesn't read like a typical novel. Polo admits half way through that he is actually describing Venice when he describes each of these cities and that brings in the interesting thoughts of how alike are cities everywhere and how much does our idea of home influence our reactions to other places.

This is a book that may be short in page number, but is long in the amount of time you need to invest to make it pay off. I was intrigued by it. ( )
  japaul22 | Jun 14, 2014 |
Oh, Invisible Cities, beloved of my youth. I have such a soft spot for this book, and it didn't disappoint: Memories of my college-aged self sitting in my friend's grubby East Village loft in a haze of pot smoke, passing the book around and taking turns reading chapters. It's still lovely, if not quite so revelatory as it was when I was 19, but as far as reading nostalgia goes it's unbeatable. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Jun 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:37 -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)

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