Other Books

Invisible Cities

Calvino, Italo - Finished Oct 13, 2016

Run-on Sentence Summary

The ultimate philosophical travel book, in which Calvino blurs genres by describing fantastical cities in a series of poetic vignettes.


Sheesh, I have no idea what to think. The premise of the book is a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, where Polo describes cities he has seen in his travels to teach the great khan about his empire. The story has no real discernible plot, but is instead a loosely structured series of portraits, describing a series of cities in a couple pages each in a proustian style that borders poetry and prose.

A prototypical passage is one in which he describes a city in which you constantly feel as if you are on the outskirts. You can proceed in any direction, but you’ll never feel like you are approaching the center and you begin to fear if you can ever leave. Sort of like life, right? This is the kind of book that I want to like more than I actually do, because I’d be so smart if I did. It is Literature with a capitol L.

At certain times I was sucked in by the style, but at other times I found it repetitive, pretentious and boring. It was reminiscent of Einstein’s Dreams, which I similarly didn’t care for.

Final Thoughts

It is strange how writing reviews has a tendency to push me to extremes. I didn’t hate this book but when trying to describe it sure sounds like I did.

Favorite Quote

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”