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As Italian explorer Marco Polo and the Tartar Emperor Kublai Khan sit together in a garden, the impending end of the empire befalls them. Marco Polo, in an effort to divert Kublai Khan's mind, decides to describe the beautiful cities within the empire he has travelled to. He starts describing various cities using his memory and imagination. But as time passes, one thing starts to become clear, although Marco says he is describing cities, he is actually describing just one city, the magnificent City of Venice.
An interesting feature of the book is that Marco Polo and Kublai Khan do not speak the same language. To tell the story, Polo uses the objects from the cities to describe them. Additionally, Polo and Khan both understand each other by virtue of their own interpretation of what's being said. Every reader is therefore left to make their own inference of what is being described while reading the book.
Invisible Cities, nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1976, triggered the imagination of artists and architects around the world by providing an alternative way of looking at cities, their formation, and functions. It has opened up the wonderful potential that lies beyond art that is confined by modern urban theory and the laws of physics. The book won the Feltrinelli Prize in 1972. Invisible Cities makes for an interesting and inspiring read, as it is filled with vivid ideas and clever insights.
About Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino was a writer and journalist. Italo Calvino is the author of If on a Winter's Night a Traveller, Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories, Difficult Loves, Marcovaldo: The Seasons in the City, Why Read the Classics?, The Queen's Necklace, Under the Jaguar Sun, Italian Folktales, The Path to the Spiders' Nests, The Literature Machine, The Castle of Crossed Destinies, and Our Ancestors.
Calvino was born in Cuba in the year 1923, but was raised in San Remo, Italy, where the inspiration for his various works were born. He received a degree in literature in 1947 from the University of Turin. In the later years, Calvino developed a passion for teaching and films, and travelled widely to fulfill these pursuits. In the year 1985, he died of brain hemorrhage. He won several awards during his lifetime, including the World Fantasy Award, Riccione Prize, Bagutta Prize, Viareggio Prize, Saint-Vincent Prize, International Charles Veillon Prize, and the Legion of Honour.