Invisible Cities

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In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo--Tartar emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts the emperor with tales 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. Soon it becomes clear that each of these fantastic places is really the same place. ...
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Overview

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo--Tartar emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts the emperor with tales 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. Soon it becomes clear that each of these fantastic places is really the same place.

One of the world's best storytellers, Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities) pinpoints for future generations the universal values for literature. Here are his works, methods, intentions, and hopes.

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Editorial Reviews

Gore Vidal
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.
New York Review of Books
From the Publisher
"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, The New York Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099429838
  • Publisher: Random House UK
  • Publication date: 8/5/2002
  • Edition description: New
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 5.08 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Italo Calvino's superb storytelling gifts earned him international renown and a reputation as "one of the world's best fabulists" (New York Times Book Review ). He is the author of numerous works of fiction, as well as essays, criticism, and literary anthologies. Born in Cuba in 1923, Calvino was raised in Italy, where he lived most of his life. At the time of his death, in Siena in 1985, he was the most-translated contemporary Italian writer.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Redundant

    INVISIBLE CITIES by Italo Calvino ???
    I so wanted to love this book, but it took me over two months just to finish it despite its short length. That is not to say it was all bad! Calvino's structure is that of Marco Polo recounting for Kublai Khan brief vignettes about various cities and towns through which he has supposedly passed on his travels. I couldn't help but marvel at the sheer imaginative power it must have taken to create so many places, and I give props to Calvino for that. In addition, his prose is wonderful, with paragraphs frequently taking unexpected twists at the end. Many sentient points about human nature-points which transcend time and culture-were subtly inserted, and lent the book an added soulful element.


    Two things gave me grief. First, despite the marvelous variety of locales, an entire book of city descriptions grew redundant very quickly. The author's creativity and prose carried me happily through about the first six or eight cities, and then the subject matter began to flag.


    The second aspect was the magical realism employed in the book. Mention of objects such as sky scrapers, carousel horses, and underground trains, which did not exist in the era in which the book was written, offended the historian in me. Rather than fantastical, they just felt like poor fact checking to me. By the end of the book, entire modern cities, in countries yet to be discovered, began appearing in Kublai Khan's atlas; it all rang very inconceivable to me. I have decided that books in which characters travel back in time and bring modern knowledge and objects with them delight me, but books in which knowledge of technology and modern devices appear long before their advent simply feel jarring.


    Had I read one of these pieces, individually, in a magazine or blog, I would likely have been full of compliments. For the most part, the book simply did not work for me because it was too much of the same.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A trance of precious gems...

    How to describe "Invisible Cities"? Mosaics, jewels, impressions, photo shots, treasure box, puzzles,... A reader has to bare her chest in order to wear in the exquisite language and magical realistic rhetoric Italo Calvino has produced in this little book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Invisible Cities

    I really wanted to love this book. When I started reading it I wanted to just devour it and be able to declare Italo Calvino one of my favorite authors. When I read the synopsis' for his novels I find myself intrigued by them all. Unfortunately, this book is a bit of a let down. Calvino was a smart author. Perhaps too smart. I'm not a stranger to metaphysical concepts but at times I got the distinct impression that the only person who knew what Calvino was talking about was Calvino. I felt like the actual meat of the book was found in the segments featuring Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, which were few and took up about twenty pages total. I will also mention that Calvino's writing style is very soft. He is a talented writer, but his way with words had a tendency to put me to sleep, even during two page chapters. Coming from someone who enjoys classic literature, that is really saying something. Though I think I will try to read perhaps one more of his books, I can safely say that Italo Calvino is not my new favorite author. Even Gore Vidal couldn't describe this book (though I have a feeling he had no idea what happened but just didn't want to admit it). If you're feeling extremely experimental and risky, then by all means give this book a shot, but if your mind is prone to wandering while reading then perhaps you should read something else.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Really good.

    Really good. I was hesitant at first because it seems very academic, but I loved it. It's a supposed conversation between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo about cities they've seen (or not).

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2005

    Cities with a soul

    Calvino had an enchanting fantasy which allowed him to paint images like the ones you can find in this book. Every city has the name of a woman and it's described as a living creature, with its inner contradictions and limits but also its creativity and desire to live.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2000

    Hysterical Commentary on Reality

    Calvino uses Marco Polo and Kublai Khan in a way to discuss the 'real' reality. Are the cities real? Are the characters real? I had a grin on my face during the entire read. Recommended to those who enjoy the surreal.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2000

    Instantly one of my all-time favorites.

    Easily the first book by Calvino I would recommend to someone. Simply his most lyrical, enchanting book, hands down. Not only is it worth a read simply to enjoy the images he evokes through incredibly spare prose, but the ideas he suggests through the dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo are philosophically intriguing, as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2002

    Fascinating

    Calvino's writing is magical. Of all the books I've read by him, this might be my favorite. A vision of what is invisible in cities, in life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2001

    Surrealistic Beauty

    Invisible cities is a study of the aesthetic and ideal that makes one believe that humanity's contribution to the universe is to build and create dreams.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 13, 2014

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    Posted December 24, 2010

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    Posted October 1, 2013

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    Posted April 13, 2010

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    Posted October 28, 2008

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    Posted July 3, 2009

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    Posted December 19, 2010

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    Posted June 16, 2009

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    Posted December 1, 2011

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    Posted June 20, 2011

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