to be read: invisible cities

invisible cities - italo calvino
this short 165 page book composed of just 9 chapters is framed around the setting of marco polo telling the stories of his adventures and travels to kublai khan in a time when the khan's empire is coming to an end. each chapter contains a number of sections, each section only around a page long devoted to describing a different city. the book as a whole is fascinating, creative, and gives the imagination a thorough workout. i love what the book says about human existence, about memories and desires and how speech and writing affects those things. calvino speaks of cities with an entirely fantastical manner that conveys truths, questions, provocation of thought all at once. i wish i could illustrate each city he speaks of in the splendor and detail i envision in my head. invisible cities carries a particular impact for me while i'm away from the city i call home and will do the same for any traveller or resident when the place you live is placed under scrutiny.

"Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if i speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."


InitialDpw said...

i agree that people have many passions, but a person cannot chase after all these passions. they'll be "jack of all trades, king of none." Focusing on and dedicating your time to 1 or 2 of these interests is what will get you somewhere; athlete's train crazy hard for their sport, artist create millions of artwork, and it's incredible. but once we chase after all our interests, we don't get very far with anything. our time and devotion becomes split.

love what polo said about how words are so limited that describing what he saw in words will corrupt his mind into forgetting how it actually was. so much easier for us to travel nowadays though, with the plane and all. i would imagine him having to go for another couple of years to travel to China and then spent another 10+ years re-touring the place.

think it's somewhat good how our minds don't remember everything or capture everything in words, cause then there'd be no awe in our next visit and there'd be no reason to go back.

charis said...

i know i'm replying to your comment really late and i wonder if you'll see this phil - but i love what your last paragraph says because that's so true. and that's also how i reconciled myself to the loss of my hard drive -

we can't possibly remember everything perfectly and if we did we'd lose the transient value of things.

yeah we have majors in school for a pretty clear reason. we all need focus.