Literature: Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities is a novel by Italian author Italo Calvino, who also wrote If on a winter's night a traveler. Like most of Calvino's works, Invisible Cities is as much a puzzle box as a story: it plays with the concepts of language, imagination and communication.

The novel consists of Marco Polo's descriptions of the many fantastic cities he has seen, delivered to an at first skeptical Kublai Khan. The cities are classified according to their nature: "Cities and the Dead", "Hidden Cities", "Cities and Eyes" etc. These short passages are interspersed with dialogues between the two men.

That's it.

Well, that's a superficial description of Invisible Cities. The concept is deceptively simple, but the way it is executed is amazing. Each city is unique — beautiful, chilling, simplistic, ornate — some are meditations on what cities are, some are Deconstructions, and some are metaphors for everything under the sky — but all seem similar in a way which is just beyond words.

Oddly enough, it is not an example of The City or Urban Fantasy.

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