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Invisible Cities

by Italo Calvino

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,460162829 (4.16)312
Imaginary conversations between Marco Polo and his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, conjure up cities of magical times. " Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant" (Gore Vidal). Translated by William Weaver. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book… (more)
Recently added byprivate library, NinjaMuse, NBarrett, A.Hine, Ribby47, 4tavistic, SanCataldo, Dungam
Legacy LibrariesMaria Àngels Anglada d'Abadal
  1. 170
    Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (New Directions Paperbook, 186) 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 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 312 mentions

English (142)  French (4)  Portuguese (Portugal) (4)  Dutch (3)  Italian (3)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Greek (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (161)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
Cities made of lists
and also the opposite
how profound is that? ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
the stuff of dreams! this was assigned reading for an urban studies class and it was such a great thing to end on. i imagine that if i had read this outside of the class i would think it just pretty words (though i always love "just pretty words"), but after a semester talking about the many things a city is and the complexity of the life of one, the vignettes of these real-or-not cities read so strikingly. i love the brevity of the descriptions, like artful sketches that, with a few artful flicks of the wrist, give you bare outlines and a few identifying features and, already, impart upon you the whole spirit of the piece. i felt like i was floating through the constructed worlds, eagerly looking out for the next city to be revealed.
Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts. ( )
  piquareste | Jun 3, 2020 |
I think this short fiction is quite beautifully drawn, a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn that consists mostly of one enormous travelogue consisting of cities, their differences, and eventually, only their consistencies and made-made up features.

There's nothing much more to it except cities and brief descriptions of each, from ancient all the way to modern cities and even cities magical and purely imaginary. On a few occasions, there's a philosophical discussion about what is perceived in reality and what is expected, of ennui and excitement, of grief and happiness, but in the end, it's all just cities.

It's enjoyable for what it is. It's almost purely description in conversation. Very little plot or character development, but we do get a little.

Even so, not bad, not bad. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
A novel of such incredible texture. The language here is so intricate, the imagery so immersive, and still the heart of this book is never obscured or diminished by its ambition. If I had to compare it to a computer game, I'd pick "Myst." Ha ha. No but really:

"Many are the cities like Phyllis, which elude the gaze of all, except the man who catches them by surprise."

"You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask."

And oh my god!

"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 we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering from 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 not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Sad to have finished this, excited to reread it. ( )
  uncleflannery | May 16, 2020 |
Read. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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