Oh, By the Way…

Invisible Cities (Le citta` invisibili)—Italo Calvino

Calvino’s almost unclassifiable novel is framed as a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan (reminiscent of Scheherazade and Shahryar in One Thousand and One Nights) in which Polo, intrepid traveler, updates the last Khan on the fragile state of his Mongol empire. From the short framing passages, Calvino transitions into 55 fantastic one- to three-page descriptions of cities, from Argia, where earth replaces air, to Zobeide, which draws men to it with a siren-like dream only to trap them within its ugly streets. The sections read more like short stories—indeed, more like poems—than like a novel, but whatever Invisible Cities is, it demands to be savored.


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