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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Invisible Cities (1972) by Italo Calvino

Zora. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Anastasia. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen

Anastasia. Image © Karina Puente Frantzen
Peruvian architect Karina Puente made illustrations for each of Calvino's Invisible Cities.

Book Review
Invisible Cities (1972)
by Italo Calvino

  I would be interested in having someone explain to me Invisible Cities.   Undoubtedly profound in ways I simply failed to grasp for lack of trying, it takes the form of an imagined dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, with Polo describing a series of fictional cities.   What begins as something like a straight forward fantasia morphs into a more sophisticated dialogue about language and narrative, as Khan first tries to take over from Polo by describing his own cities, and finally by Khan asking him about Venice, a very real city.   Thus, Calvino discretely treads on the line between "realistic" and "fantastic" fiction.

  Invisible Cities also continues the rigid schematic structure of The Castle of Crossed Destinies.  There, the organizing/limiting principle was the inability of the characters to speak out loud, with the chapters organized by the cards.  Here, divides the chapters into types of cities:  Cities & Memory, Cities & Desire, Cities & Signs, etc. 

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