Friday 2 December 2011

Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino

Marco Polo sits in discussion with Kublai Khan. Between each discussion he describes some strange and wonderful cities. Each one very different. However, Khan is aware that whilst each city may be different they are also the same. For Marco Polo is really describing his home city of Venice.

A short description, I know, but that's really what the book is about. It's broke into several sections. Each one starts and ends with a discussion between Polo and Khan and all of these discussions are linked together. They are broken up, however, by Polo's descriptions of all the cities he has supposedly visited. Some border on the strange and wonderful. An example is the city on stilts where the people never come down to the earth. Others ring bells with our own society. Such as the city in which the population likes new things and constantly get rid of their old things to make way for them. As a result land fills are growing faster than the city.

I loved reading all these city descriptions. It's makes the book a little difficult to describe though. There is no real plot to it other than the conversation between Polo and Khan. Neither speak the same language and yet they somehow understand each other. Khan is aware that Polo is describing Venice and even calls him on it for which a vague answer is given. Gore Vidal is quoted on the back of the book as saying that describing a book is difficult and in this case it certainly is. All I can say as that the book was beautifully written. Someone else even mentioned it was poetic and I have to agree.

There is honestly not much more I can say about it. I have read one other book by this author, "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" and whilst it is very different it's beautiful in it's writing style. The fact that both were written by the same author is really no surprise. I honestly expected no less when I picked this one up.

This didn't take me long at all to read. However, it is one that will stay with me. I can see myself picking it up every now and then and flicking through some of those descriptions. Oh, and if you haven't already read "If On A Winter's Night A Traveler" I highly recommend that too.


  1. I've never heard of this book but it sounds fascinating. I'm adding it to my list.

  2. Satia, it's a fantastic book. So very different from anything I had read before. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. You had me at "beautifully written" and "poetic" - pretty much all I want/need from a book. I'll be adding this to my never ending wish list.