Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a great book depicting the fantastic cities which appear in the readers’ imagination making the readers feel as if they were travelers in a strange world. The first two chapters open up the story and introduce the main characters and setting. Kublai Khan is an emperor of an empire fading away.

This strong lord wants to know what is going on in his own empire for he even is not aware of each place in his empire. He listens to his servants’ descriptions and stories but he is not interested. Here comes Marco Polo, Venetian traveler, who starts describing different beautiful places, and he does this so well that emperor is satisfied and is eager to listen to Marco Polo.

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Thus, they sit in the beautiful garden of the emperor and discuss beautiful places. I would like to point out that both of the main characters and the readers understand that not everything in these stories is real, but it so beautiful that it is impossible to stop listening and reading. To my mind this book is one of those which absorb one’s attention completely, and it makes a person who started reading read it up to the end. There are a lot of reasons for that; I’d numerate some of them. First of all the language of the book is very readable, and I am sure that each reader had thoughts like the following: “OK.

One little passage and I stop… Oh, Ok. I have to know what’s next. I’ll read another tiny passage…” Secondly, reading this book makes you eager to find out whether all this is real after all. Maybe this place exists nearby, or maybe it is only Calvino’s imagination.

And the third reason to be pointed out concerns the ending of the second chapter directly, it is simply a must to see the following dialogue between the emperor and the traveler: with fewer words and more gestures, mime. As far as the whole story is concerned I would like to point out that it is quite philosophic, it is not about depiction of some architecture, and it is more about the habits and traditions. The most interesting about this all is that the book, being a philosophic, to my mind, should put questions and this story instead provides answers; and makes the readers (at least me) think about habits of their own cities. The style of this book is so unusual and at the same time easy to read.

The most striking point about the style, in my opinion, is its shifting. There are several narrators: there is an unknown narrator who describes the garden, the emperor and Marco Polo; Marco Polo is narrator himself; then Marco starts speaking, using third person. The reader becomes sometimes confused and uncertain about the source of narration. All this creates the mysterious atmosphere of shifting the time and space.

One more thing to be discussed is the evocative character; I’d call the language of the book a picturesque one. Somehow the words and sentences become bright colors and definite images. To my mind, this book is not only a great piece of literature, but it can be called a piece of art, a kind of 3-D story.

I would call this book a painting of many layers, and here the reader is the creator as well. Calvino only shows the possible variants, but readers create their own cities and gardens, even the whole new worlds. Thus, Invisible Cities is a piece of art which is to be read by everyone, who wants to travel in their own world.


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