Invisible Cities

My birthday came and went, and with it the gift cards that always come with it. I love those gift cards. It means I can go to the bookstore, wander to my heart’s content, and pick out whatever I want- usually something that I’ve been wanting for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to picking up.

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has been on one or another of my lists for quite some time, but I’d never remembered to look for it until the other night, when I pretty much just stumbled across it at the bookstore. It’s a plain, white cover with a section of white imprinted to form a shape, and there’s a little bird drawn inside the shape- just a little ‘V’, like the birds little kids draw in the skies next to their pictures of houses and trees. A plain cover wrapping up a book of shimmering illusions and imaginary and outlandish cities that are all different, but all the same.

It begins with an aging Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, sitting together while Marco Polo describes all the cities he has been to in his many travels. They are impossible cities, but somehow are very real, and Kublai Khan questions him about the reality of these cities, receiving cryptic answers that he has to guess at the meaning of.

 

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Reading about these strange places- imaginary as they may or may not be- reminds me of all the places I’ve visited and makes me think of the qualities of each of the cities I’ve been to, and how I might describe them years from now, when my travels aren’t so clear in my memory, and only dreamlike fragments of those journeys remain.

 

“Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, pg. 29

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