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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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on 30 May 2009
I was surprised to see some readers did not enjoy this book. Perhaps they had been expecting something else. Invisible Cities is close to being the opposite of a narrative. Marco Polo visits the diverse cities of the Khan's empire; but there is really no travelling and every place is a different way of seeing the same object, suggesting the fantastic worlds described to the Khan by his ambassador exist, if anywhere, in their opium filled minds. In this it resonates with a favourite movie - Once Upon A Time In America.

But what a dream! Although the narrative development is scarce, the descriptions - each of which is no more than a page or two - develop like a musical score, with innumerable themes revisited in different inversions and with wild variations. As when listening to J.S.Bach, the invention and the imagination are themselves enough to move the reader. And this is a political, humanistic work, with the lightest of touches, but with mysterious depths.
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on 26 July 2016
It is a series of short poetic type stories of Marco Polo's visits to distant lands. It is very well written but the stories are too short to maintain the attention of the reader.
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on 25 July 2016
Good book.
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"Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening..."

So writes Italo Calvino, in one of the more ethereal experimental books he wrote. While not as weird as a book made up of tarot card adventures, "Invisible Cities" is a story that defies easy classification -- it's soft, dreamlike narrative in which one man tells another about the magical cities he's seen. Or, possibly, has not seen.

The famous Venetian explorer Marco Polo arrives in the empire of Kublai Khan, and the two men become friends. In the evenings, Marco tells the Khan of many fabulous cities -- the grey metal and stone Fedora, the stilted Zenobia, the haunted moonlit Zobeide, the sensual and bejeweled Anastasia, the cloud-straddling Baucis, the watery Esmeralda, a city of dead people known as Adelma, the dirt-choked Argia, the hazy rose-tinted Irene, and many others.

"Invisible Cities" isn't really a story so much as a series of beautiful pictures-in-prose. It's like we're watching Calvino paint us portraits of his fantasy cities with his words -- and except for Kublai Khan and Marco Polo occasionally conversing about trade, travel or chess, there is no actual plot here. It's just gorgeous portraits of imaginary cities.

And therein lies its charm. Calvino came up with dozens of fantastical cities in here. Few if any of them could actually exist, but they are so suffused with sensual beauty ("its villas all of glass like aquariums where the shadows of dancing girls with silvery scales swim...") and darkness ("All corpses, dried in such a way that the skeleton remains sheathed in yellow skin, are carried down there, to continue their former activities...") that you don't care.

Instead, Calvino comes up with strange, weird and illogical ideas, such as a city with ho actual buildings, but lots of plumbing. There are cities of the dead and the unborn; cities of the sea, the air, the earth and the sunrise; cities where everyone is a stranger and steampunk cities rusted into oblivion. It's like he's opened a hundred doors to eerie other worlds, and let us take a single picture of each before the doors close.

"Invisible Cities" is not a book for people who like plot -- instead, it's a chance to immerse yourself in Italo Calvino's magical language and imagination.
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on 30 August 2009
Don't believe the hype. I know that Calvino became famous in the States with If on a Winter Night... but this is his real masterpiece. Witty, poetic, visionary, elegantly written (and well translated). Calvino's idea of a city, or of the possible cities. The dream of cities, whatever we can find in cities. It's a deep book, it's an engrossing reading, it's a dream, it's a tale, it's a yarn, it's absolutely true. To me, this is the book that Calvino was born to write, and the one you have to read to really understand why Calvino will remain.
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on 20 November 2015
Perfect condition...many thanks
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on 24 November 2015
AMAZING BOOK. if you like to imagen anything, or think things up, this book is a must read, it stimulates your creative mind to heck
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on 14 March 2015
Good ! No issues
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on 13 September 2016
Wasn't what I had hoped for
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