Invisible Cities

Ranked #4 in Cities, Ranked #5 in Cubansee more rankings.

"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... more

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Colin Thubron Oh God. Well, officially it’s Marco Polo describing the cities of his travels to Kublai Khan. It’s been opined that every city he describes is a version of Venice, but I think that doesn’t really work. They seem to me to be marvellous imaginative fantasies, which sometimes reproduce states of mind. There are 40 or so cities described, all entirely imaginary I think, and that’s what’s so magical about them. But there are passages that are suggestive of something, and nearly always of the way memory works. It’s a very hard book to describe, because the cities are never just a description of a... (Source)

James Meek It has different layers. The set-up is that Kublai Khan has conquered this vast empire; an empire so large that he, sitting at the centre of it, cannot know all the many parts of it. He can’t visit them, he can’t see them, and if he goes to one part all the other parts have changed. So he sits there at the centre of his empire and Marco Polo travels around and visits the various cities and comes back and describes them to Kublai Khan. (Source)

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