'A subtle and beautiful meditation' Sunday Times 20020220
Victoria writes: Invisible Cities is a brilliant novel about the dominance of imagination, the lust of desire, the power of the Other and the evocative nature of 'story'. Italo Calvino uses sublime prose to evoke the extraordinary and yet illusory endeavours of a young Marco Polo, who describes to the Kublai Khan, the exotic and global encounters he pretends to have witnessed. Unbeknown to Khan, Polo is describing, over and over again, the myriad of invented forms of Venice - the very city they both dwell in. These various encounters, the constructions of imagined cities, are filled with persuasive imagery, rich in architectural form and offer suggestive in cultural and social metaphors as a comment on the nature of our perceptions and rituals. Invisible Cities gives way to a collection of bizarre, beautiful, horrible and terrifying cities - although at times strangely familiar and other times terrifically impossible. It is an innovative story that has been profoundly influential in literary, architectural and many other creative fields, and consequently Invisible Cities is considered a remarkable and masterful book.
In Invisible Cities Marco Polo conjures up cities of magical times for his host, the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, but gradually it becomes clear that he is actually describing one city: Venice. As Gore Vidal wrote 'Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvellous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant.'