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“Invisible Cities” by Calvino Essay

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Updated: Dec 21st, 2021

The “Invisible Cities” by Calvino remains one of the most fantastic old literatures to read. While it might take days to complete the reading the entire book, the unique presentation of the 55 cities is a fascinating process that takes the reader through one of the most intricate pieces of work. This is because the book has no plot and no formal introduction and lacks the development of characters as in most literatures. In is just a just a composition of dialogue between Marc Polo, the Venetian traveler and Kublai Khan, the oriental emperor.

Invisible Cities is best classified as “post modern”. Reading and describing the book is indeed a very frustrating process because of Calvino’s writing style. I am a plot driven reader who is always dismayed by extra ordinary scenery and I must state my disappointment in reading this book for the first time. The cities described in this book are seldom peopled characters, with the exception of the transitory ones. Although Calvino has tried to introduce the element of family monopolies in bergamot, astrolabes and turquoises, their role in character and plot development are never expounded to a greater detail.

In the reading of the book, I wonder what translation may have done to the original piece written by Calvino in his most original language. The book is easy to read because it is appropriately divided into categories by the chapters though it has the concept of overlapping themes between the various categories. I actually did enjoy reading this book after at least two revisits because of the philosophical nature and thought experiments that project the feeling of nostalgia, history, aging and decline. The intimations that surround the narratives has been extensively explored by Calvino——

“Through the walls and towers destined to crumble, the tracery of a pattern so subtle it could escape the termites gnawing” (27). What remains a major disturbing fact in the whole reading is that even though Khan insists and tries to persuade Polo to talk about his own city, Venice, he only gives descriptions of strange, invisible and imaginary cities that no one has had a chance to see. Bit by bit, Khan gets engrossed in the whole story and gets a feeling of physically being part of the non existent places.

In the analysis of the entire book, I fell in love with the imaginary city of Zobeide. This is because in introduction of this city, there is feeling of change from the monotonous lack of enchantment to a feeling of better and existent life.

Calvino (31)

——-From there, after six days and seven nights, you arrive at Zobeide, the white city, well exposed to the moon, with streets wound about themselves as in a skein. They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream, they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream.

Calvino gives the imaginary city-Zobeide the description of a city compounded by beauty and the travelers are tempted to stay and build a city like the one in their dream. Zobeide thus remains my city of interest in the analysis of the invisible cities by calvino.

Work Cited

Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Venice; Vintage, 1997.

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