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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
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Invisible Cities

by Italo Calvino

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,985149842 (4.16)296
  1. 170
    Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (WSB7)
    WSB7: Both have wonderfully imaginative but controlled semiotic exercises.
  2. 141
    Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: Both books are liesurely contemplations of fantastical situations, not plot- or character-driven, but conceptual.
  3. 113
    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.
  4. 51
    The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges (Torikton)
  5. 30
    Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was 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
    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.
  8. 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.
  9. 10
    Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson (WSB7)
    WSB7: Each has a partially factual/partially imagined frame.
  10. 10
    The Logogryph: A Bibliography Of Imaginary Books by Thomas Wharton (unctifer)
  11. 10
    The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo (Jannes)
  12. 10
    Marcovaldo or The Seasons in the City by Italo Calvino (unctifer)
  13. 21
    Viriconium: "The Pastel City", "A Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" by M. John Harrison (Torikton)
  14. 10
    Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (PhoenixFalls)
  15. 32
    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.
  16. 00
    Dreams and stones by Magdalena Tulli (DieFledermaus)
  17. 00
    Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will by Judith Schalansky (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Little vignettes about places. Calvino's are more fanciful and there's a twist, while Schalansky's are little anecdotes based on actual bizarre and out-of-the-way places.
  18. 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.
  19. 00
    The Aphorisms of Kherishdar by M. C. A. Hogarth (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Vignettes that create a picture of something greater.
  20. 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...

(see all 24 recommendations)

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» See also 296 mentions

English (131)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Greek (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (148)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
After reading The Baron in the Trees, I was looking forward to reading Invisible Cities. Unfortunately, I did not find it as interesting. I felt that it was a silly and pointless text. Although I was captivated at first by the descriptions of the cities, it quickly wore off because I felt that Calvino wasn't taking us anywhere. We were just going in circles. This is no Arabian Nights, despite the use of having Marco Polo describe the cities to the Khan. I would say skip this book and try The Baron in the Trees or another of his works. ( )
  oacevedo | Apr 9, 2019 |
Whatever you are expecting, this is not it. Reading this series of fantasies is like stumbling upon a set of incantations--confusing, intriguing, and once you get going you sometimes think it might actually be working. So much in literature was made possible by the form, or form breakage, of Invisible Cities. I'd recommend it for anyone seeking to reassure themselves that anything is possible. ( )
  deeEhmm | Apr 3, 2019 |
Far too clever for me. I failed to see the point or understand much of what was going on. Read the French translation which I doubt is the reason for my incomprehension; this is a poetic vision of cities presented as a dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. I don’t speak or read Italian but I may as well have read it in the original version as it would probably have made as much sense to me. Some nice turns of phrases and at times I felt transported for short bursts here and there when my brain wasn’t resisting and saying “this is all very nice but what the hell is going on here?!”

I suppose I could give it five stars and say this book was a surreal and transporting experience to make myself look like a real intellectual, but I’m not trying to impress anyone. It was surreal, yes. But it was also a slog and nearly put me to sleep more than once. ( )
  Smiler69 | Feb 16, 2019 |
Invisible Cities - Calvino
3 stars

It’s only 165 pages long, but I spent most of the year strolling through these invisible cities.
Each city is described in beautiful detail like individual prose poems. I liked them. I highlighted favorite phrases. I forgot them as soon as I closed the book. ( )
  msjudy | Jan 1, 2019 |
In How to Read and Why, Harold Bloom writes that Invisible Cities is worthy of being read and re-read, and is one of the best short story works of the twentieth century by the "fabulist" Italo Calvino. Bloom suggests that Calvino is Borgesian and Kafkan. The connecting thread is a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, with Polo describing the cities he has visited, so the Great Khan can know better his crumbling empire. Bloom says of Calvino's wisdom (a recurring compliment from the great critic) that:Calvino's advice tells us again how to read and why: be vigilant, apprehend and recognise the possibility of the good, help it to endure, give it space in your life.The cities described are apparently all versions of Venice, with Kublai Khan later recognising this and trying to describe instead the cities to Polo. An endless chess game becomes a vehicle to describe the cities using the pieces and the board as metaphors. A "fabulist" is "a person who composes or relates fables". What I found most interesting about these (at times) very short stories is the way they are arranged (or scattered, as Bloom writes) around themes of thin cities, trading cities, dead cities, the sky, even fanciful cities such as Brave New World and Yahooland. Within the descriptions, there are numerous anachronisms: motorcycles, aircraft, steamships, and so on. But these never interrupt the reader and provide a connection with the present. The combination of fanciful and mystical characters who appear in the cities (for example, a woman who milks the carcass of a cow) are echoed in Gabriel García Márquez's work, but there is a difference. Márquez was regarded as a "magical realist", whereas Calvino's Invisible Cities is less realist and more like a series of fairy tales. I noticed myself drifting off into fantasy with the mystical imagery and the slipperiness of time; not in the J.R.R. Tolkien sense of fantasy, but an older, classical, Brothers Grimm-like fantasy land that repeatedly connects the past with the present and indeed the future. This work is more serious in tone than Palomar or Marcovaldo, but it still has their mystical qualities. I must admit to experiencing a sense of peace while reading this work, and although some aspects have a darker quality, I couldn't help but think of Don Draper's pitch for Lucky Strike in Mad Men:Advertising is based on one thing, happiness, its reassurance that whatever you are doing, it’s OK, you are OK.Of course, Bloom (How to Read and Why, pp. 62-64) has more academic things to say about Calvino, but for me, one actually experiences his stories. In trying to articulate Calvino's style more clearly, I turned to the Cambridge Companion to the Italian Novel and found that Calvino is described as a "post-modernist", and that Le città invisibili has (p. 174):...closer affinities to the allegory of the Middle Ages than to the realist novel.An allegory is a story:...that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.I suppose this is what Harold Bloom means by the lessons we can learn from Calvino's wisdom. But even as an aside to read intermittently, the mystical qualities of the short stories provide sufficient space from reality for the reader to rejuvenate, to think, to imagine, and to dream, even just for a moment. This mystical quality is what I admire most about Calvino, and I am pleased to have stumbled upon Marcovaldo in a Shanghai bookstore a few years ago that led me to take this journey with the great post-modern Italian master. ( )
  madepercy | Dec 26, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (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.

» see all 4 descriptions

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