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Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino Book Review | SFReader.com
Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Harcourt Published: 1978 Review Posted: 2/1/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10
Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino
Book Review by Sheri Fresonke Harper
Have you read this book?
Invisible Cities is a lovely work of art and I believe a speculative classic. It is written non-traditionally in what I call a series of connected prose poems on the subject of cities rather than as a modern commercial fiction novel. Central to the book's story is the friendship that grows between the two main characters, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, one who travels endlessly meeting up with one who gobbles cities and puts them under his control. From their first conversation conveyed mostly through mime by Marco Polo who doesn't speak the language, their dialogue is interrupted by a never-ending parade of cities.
As Marco Polo describes each new city, starting with Diomira and concluding with Berenice, he explains to Genghis what it is that he observed about a city. Prominent themes include the first look, first encounter, the occupants, the way cities are put together, and what makes a city what it is or will become. The two spend hours fascinated over Kublai Khan's atlas. Eventually, the conversation boils down to whether or not a person can be separated from the city in which he lives.
The plot is subtle, with complications arising between who the men are and what they do for a living. The language is dreamy as if one drank wine while watching the sunset. A reader will more likely read a short piece and muse on it for a time rather than read it for the excitement. The dialogue between the two men is philosophical and meta-physical and requires attention to absorb.
I highly recommend it to lovers of speculative fiction, especially those who love fantasy, old world history, travel and anyone who is plans to write as a lesson in scenery and speculative fiction writers especially as a lesson on how to make a city come to life. But I do admit, it is not for the faint of heart and some might be bored with the lack of action.
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Excellent, excellent work, that "Invisible Cities." Highly recommended. And you're right, too, about the prose-poem nature of the work. If you have an inclination to try metafiction, Calvino's "If on a winter's night a traveler" is also excellent.