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Invisible Cities
by Italo Calvino
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6 entries have been written about this.

A story about this — 7 years ago

WORTH CONSUMING!

This book is reminding me more and more of my very favorite book, Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman.

The city of Sophronia is made up of two half-cities. In one there is the great roller coaster with its steep humps, the carousel with its chain spokes, the Ferris wheel of spinning cages, the death-ride with crouching motorcyclists, the big top with the clump of trapezes hanging in the middle. The other half-city is of stone and marble and cement, with the bank, the factories, the palaces, the slaughterhouse, the school, and all the rest. One of the half-cities is permanent, the other is temporary, and when the period of its sojurn is over, they uproot it, dismantle it, and take it off, transplanting it to the vacant lots of another half-city.

And so every year the day comes when the workmen remove the marble pediments, lower the stone walls, the cement pylons, take down the Ministry, the monument, the docks, the petroleum refinery, the hospital, load them on trailers, to follow from stand to stand their annual itinerary. Here remains the half-Sophronia of the shooting-galleries and the carousels, the shout suspended from the cart of the headlong roller coaster, and it begins to count the months, the days it must wait before the caraven returns and a complete life can begin again. (63)

Something else:

“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.” (87)

Just one more, I promise.

I thought: “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.” (95)

A story about this — 7 years ago

WORTH CONSUMING!

A really nice passage:

The traveler’s past changes according to the route he has followed: not the immediate past, that is, to which each day that goes by adds a day, but the more remote past. Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

Marco enters a city; he sees someone in a square living a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man’s place, if he had stopped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wandering he had come to be in the place of that man in that square. By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present. Futures not achieved are only banches of the past: dead branches.

“Journeys to relive your past?” was the Khan’s question at this point, a question which could also have been formulated: Journeys to recover your future?"

And Marco’s answer was: “Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have.” (28-29)

A story about this — 9 years ago

An all time classic. Totally original and enchanting.

A story about this — 10 years ago

WORTH CONSUMING!

A master playing with the power and joy of permutation and imagination. Short sketches of glorious, fantastical cities, given depth and reality by the fundamental human traits and ideas from which they are extrapolated. City as organism + city as vessel = city as Mind.

A story about this — 10 years ago

WORTH CONSUMING!

Simply wonderful. I’ll need to write more about this at some other time.

A story about this — 11 years ago

WORTH CONSUMING!

I ♥ Calvino


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