Invisible Cities | Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities changed the way we read and what is possible in the balance between poetry and prose… The book I would choose as pillow and plate, alone on a desert island — Jeanette Winterson

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino | Vintage Classics, New Ed. 1997

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.’

Whole chapters of unforced poetic prose in which insight and fantasy are perfectly matched-an exquisite world (Observer )
‘Invisible Cities is perhaps his most beautiful work-the artist seems to have made peace with the tension between man’s ideas of the many and the one (New York Review of Books )
The most beautiful of his books throws up ideas, allusions, and breathtaking imaginative insights on almost every page. Each time he returns from his travels, Marco Polo is invited by Kublai Khan to describe the cities he has visited-Although he makes Marco Polo summon up many cities for the Khan’s imagination to feed on, Calvino is describing only one city in this book. Venice, that decaying heap of incomparable splendour, still stands as substantial evidence of man’s ability to create something perfect out of chaos (Paul Bailey Times Literary Supplement )
Of all the Italian post-war novelists, Italo Calvino is the adventurer. He glitters, impersonal, brilliant and lasting (Financial Times )