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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 April 2014
Invisible Cities on Kindle

This book recounts conversations between the trader and explorer Marco Polo and the emperor Kublai Khan, about real and imagined cities. The book follows a strict mathematical structure, but it is decidedly unrealistic, at times a poetic and brilliantly described past, at times contemporary elements are dropped in. It is reminiscent of the Peter Greenaway short film A Walk Through H, and is perhaps best read as an elegant musing on the nature of cities and imagination.

Reviews of this book tend to fall into two camps, on the one hand it is a brilliant piece of writing that should have earned the author a Nobel Prize, on the other it is a formless pretentious piece of ostentatious modernism that just does not work.

I rather fall between the two camps, I read the whole book in half a dozen sessions, but my reaction alternated between the above two extremes. My initial impressions were amazement at just how good it was, the next time I read it, I was wondering just what had impressed me about it. It is certainly an impressive piece of writing, sitting with Pale Fire (Penguin Modern Classics) and A Void as bold experiments. However for most readers the test of a bold experiment is whether it remains readable, for me The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman,Bad Day for the Sung Dynasty,The Following Story (Harvill Panther), and The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory (Penguin Modern Classics) are equally bold but ultimately far more compelling. But each to their own, this is well worth reading, and it is the classic piece of modernist literature on cities.
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on 23 September 2016
*Invisible Cities* is a meditation on human foibles and the human predicament expressed through the vehicle of Marco Polo concisely describing to Kublai Khan a series of fantastical cities. Beautifully written in a modern classical style. For me, the book seesaws between fascinating and repetitive: at times I found myself wondering about the relevance of imagining these unreal places, then at other times I was gripped by the clever imagination of the author.
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VINE VOICEon 23 February 2011
A world-weary Kublai Khan seeks news of his sprawling empire from his travelling ambassador Marco Polo. The book consists of Polo's descriptions of strange and far-flung cities, punctuated by dialogues with the Khan. Each of these imagined cities, though not lacking physical detail, is distinguished by some thought-provoking peculiarity that makes it of more interest as a META-physical notion. Argia, for instance, is a buried city whose inhabitants presumably tunnel their way around:

"From up here, nothing of Argia can be seen... The place is deserted. At night, putting your ear to the ground, you can sometimes hear a door slam."

It's a short book, but not for me a quick one. Lacking conventional plot and characterisation, it did not pull me along but left me to travel under my own steam (like Polo). But also it was as if the author lowered a barrier at the end of each city's description, a built-in and unavoidable pause for thought. For Calvino is not of course talking about mere cities, but about life, human nature, time, fate, memory and civilisation.

It's an intellectual, anachronistic fabulation, a collection of philosophical fragments rather than a traditional novel. As such, it made me think more than feel; but it's no less impressive for that.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 April 2016
a wonderful book - A dream like imagining of many cities, or perhaps just one city seen from different perspectives, or all cities and their dark complexities, you can take from it whatever you like. A daydream on the nature of place and people. This is a short book, but a slow book, you cant rush through. Ideal for a traveller who needs to stop and think.
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on 1 December 2016
Purchased 2nd hand from World of Book ltd, in excellent condition and at a very economical price.
Enjoying the book but should not be read all at once.
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on 14 June 2016
The premise could not be more wonderful. Kublai Khan asking the greatest traveler in human history, Marco Polo, to describe the cities of his empire. Descriptions and symbology that you will digest for a lifetime. Italo Calvino did the world a great service with this short read.
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on 24 January 2018
Bought as a gift for my niece, she seemed happy. My wife has previously read this and enjoyed it very much, and thought our niece would too as she enjoys travelling.
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on 10 February 2018
very nice/genius books. highly recommended it...
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on 10 December 2016
Calvino was a genius: in this book, Marco Polo describes to Khubla Khan the cities of his empire. Each of these portraits charts a unique, idiosyncratic, and poetic place, and all end in a surprising philosophical twist. A true gem!
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on 23 October 2015
One of my favourite books. Have had a print copy for years but it's the kind of thing you also need to duplicate onto the Kindle!
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