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Invisible Cities (A Harvest/Hbj Book) Paperback – 1978

4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1978
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156453800
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156453806
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #289,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

“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


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I think that anything that's written about this book will pale in comparison to the wonders it contains. This is my best shot at capturing a movie with black and white still photography.

Every page or two contains an incredibly unique description of a city that itself stands as a symbol for some other deeper meaning. I got the impression that each of these cities could have spawned an entire 300-page novel but you get all of their wonder and meaning condensed into a page or two of beautifully written prose poetry. It's like walking through an art gallery where every painting is not only distinct from every other one, but also different that anything you've ever imagined yourself. For the first half of the book I kept worrying that it couldn't possibly continue to be this good'it did! Then for the second half of the book I kept worrying about the fact that I was quickly running out of pages in what was one of the most special books I've ever read. The cities aren't just interesting for their bizarre and astounding architecture, but also the customs and beliefs of the people that live there and ultimately the meaning that you can find in each of them.

This is all tied together by intermittent conversations between Kahn and Polo and their musings on the nature of reality and meaning.

I don't think that any book will change anyone's life. But the best books give you a new perspective on the world, or a germ of an idea or a glimpse at a feeling'a shred of deeper meaning that you can then take with you and make something out of if you so choose. This is one of those books.

Give it a shot. All it will take is a couple of pages to hook you.
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Format: Paperback
This short book is both a parable about power and a wonderful compendium of magical places as enchanting as the late medieval traveler's tales that Calvino has clearly absorbed. The aged dictator Khan sits at the edge of a vast empire that he has never actually toured. The nimble Marco Polo, by contrast, possesses no territory; only the memory of his many travels.
Like Sheherazade recounting her thousand-and-one tales, Polo finds himself in the position of having to recollect for Khan the descriptions of the many cities that he ostensibly possesses. Polo thus becomes the Khan's only source for information about the cities in his territory; hence their 'invisibility.' But the descriptions he gives of the cities seem increasingly fantastic and elaborate. The Khan is skeptical. Polo, for his part, insists that he is being frank.
The question at the center of the book becomes: who possesses these cities? Kublai Khan, or Marco Polo? What are we to make of the possibility that Polo, for all his protestations, is being less than honest with the Khan? In which case, do the cities exist only in the traveler's imagination? If so, is the Khan's empire therefore merely a dream and an invention?
The brevity of each section (1 to 3 pages) and the sensual pleasures Calvino's descriptions provoke makes this book exquisite bed-time reading. In fact, older children would probably also enjoy the beauty of this charming tale.
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By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Aug. 26 2011
Format: 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..."

So writes Italo Calvino, in one of the more ethereal experimental books he wrote. While not as weird as a book made up of tarot card adventures, "Invisible Cities" is a story that defies easy classification -- it's soft, dreamlike narrative in which one man tells another about the magical cities he's seen. Or, possibly, has not seen.

The famous Venetian explorer Marco Polo arrives in the empire of Kublai Khan, and the two men become friends. In the evenings, Marco tells the Khan of many fabulous cities -- the grey metal and stone Fedora, the stilted Zenobia, the haunted moonlit Zobeide, the sensual and bejeweled Anastasia, the cloud-straddling Baucis, the watery Esmeralda, a city of dead people known as Adelma, the dirt-choked Argia, the hazy rose-tinted Irene, and many others.

"Invisible Cities" isn't really a story so much as a series of beautiful pictures-in-prose. It's like we're watching Calvino paint us portraits of his fantasy cities with his words -- and except for Kublai Khan and Marco Polo occasionally conversing about trade, travel or chess, there is no actual plot here. It's just gorgeous portraits of imaginary cities.

And therein lies its charm. Calvino came up with dozens of fantastical cities in here. Few if any of them could actually exist, but they are so suffused with sensual beauty ("its villas all of glass like aquariums where the shadows of dancing girls with silvery scales swim...") and darkness ("All corpses, dried in such a way that the skeleton remains sheathed in yellow skin, are carried down there, to continue their former activities...
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Format: Paperback
Marco Polo arrived in Katai (now China) by traveling as long as 3 years and a half. He would be staying at the Kublai Khan's court for 17 years as ambassador and governor. Thanks to his experience and travels book the commercial enterprise will develop into the Far East during the next centuries. Most of the cities Polo had written of don't exist in the modern era. Some changed their name. Kublai Khan was chief of an endless empire whose capital he established in Khanbalik (Peking). He ruled from Mongolia to Tibet, from China to Birman: was he a right and wise sovereign too? Polo would answer affirmative, but we know he had been an employee by Kublai who paid the duties to him for a fortune! It's common knowledge in Italy that the memories of Polo were titled 'The Million' to remember such a wealth. This is the history... "Why do you lie, foreigner?". Kublai Khan noticed all the cities Polo told him were seeming to resemble as though the passing from one to another shouldn't imply a journey but an exchange of elements only. Promptly Khan was going to browse on his atlas the maps of the cities which threaten from nightmares and curses: Enoch, Babylon, Yahoo, Butua, Brave New World... And this is "The Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino. Maybe you too, while surfing the Net, realize the differences are going to vanish and each city looks like all other cities, an out-and-out dust swarms into the continents. Cities akin to Dante's Inferno? Read the book or write to me to get answer!
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