Friday, June 19, 2009

Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino

In Invisible Cities, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan tell stories of the cities they've seen, imagined, dreamt, and remembered. The result is a diaphanous fantasy alternating between mirage and memory, like bridges slipping through river fog, or minarets wavering in desert heat. In the end, after a traveler's tour of cities possible and impossible, the two storytellers find themselves on common ground.

Invisible Cities is a great introduction to Calvino - short, but wide in scope; intelligent, yet accessible; dazzling, yet profound. I love this book, but I can't really explain why. It defies easy categorization or synopsis. Invisible Cities exists for no other reason than Calvino wrote it. It exists, like sunlight, without question. And like sunlight, it illuminates something inexpressible and mysterious. It provokes the same feelings I have when I return home after traveling outside the country - subtle shifts in perception and value that texture my home city with new light, adding deeper layers of understanding and meaning to my quotidian life.
I want to live in the cities Calvino describes, and it turns out that I already do - I just don't always see the remarkable, or hold the perspective necessary to observe beauty in the commonplace. Ask me to describe the city I live in, and I will describe my own life. Invisible Cities is kind of like that.

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