It was in a library that I first came across this magical book called ‘Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvino in the classics section. Little did I know it was going to be the most exciting read of my life.
The story begins with Kublai Khan- a Chinese ruler who senses that the end of his empire is near and calls for its news. In response to this Marco Polo, a Venetian explorer and merchant, narrates the stories of various cities in his empire to his host.
Throughout the book there was never a dull moment. The vast palette of imagination summed up with hidden metaphors made the reading experience insightful and exciting. It seems as though every city in itself is a character in the story other than the two characters Kublai Khan – The Chinese ruler and Marco Polo the traveler. At one point of time it becomes difficult to tell if the cities were fictional or real. The language that Calvino uses to describe each city is so free flowing and the description is so well detailed out that you can not only build a picture of it in your head, but walk through it as if it were real. There is a city of water, city of webs, city on stilts, suspended cities, prosperous cities, mysterious cities, dying cities. After reading the description of each city you realize that Calvino’s cities are not made of steel and concrete or in a way we generally look at any city, instead they are made of ideas and thoughts. They have their own personalities which are diverse and unique.
The writing is layered and has a much deeper meaning than meets the eye. It is in fact an example of great story telling. More than anything this book has always been an inspiration to me. Whenever my well of imagination goes dry, I read a few pages of this book and I am filled with zest and fresh ideas. It is disorienting in a very pleasant way. Every time I read it I see the world a bit differently.
Calvino describes one of the cities – Tamara saying, “You leave Tamara without having discovered it.” I think it is similar for me in case of Invisible cities. I visit it each time never having it discovered, never really deciphering it. That is exactly what makes me come back to this mysterious and wonderful book again and again.