This beautiful little book begins as a fictional Marco Polo writes to Kublai Khan to explain the wondrous cities he has encountered throughout his travels. Each city is described in a few pages or less. Like the explorer’s real account, Invisible Cities describes the strange, fantastic qualities of each place he visits.
Italo Calvino was an Italian writer who wrote many short stories and novels on a variety of subjects. Many of his works incorporate satire, humor, and some degree of irony. This novel is not unlike the others. However, it is quite unique in the sense that each city (each a story in itself) allows the reader to, almost like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, make up half the story.
The story meanings and endings can be interpreted in many different ways, which makes this book perfect for dreamers and creative types. One is left ruminating the city that can never complete building “so its destruction cannot begin” and the city that looks just like the one you just came from. Then there is the city built on the alignment of the stars, where the mothers produce horribly deformed children. “Either they must admit that all their calculations were wrong and their figures were unable to describe the heavens, or else they must reveal that the order of the gods is reflected exactly in the city of monsters.”
One can see why the cynic would enjoy this book as well. In studying the wisdom and the folly of these urban peoples’ actions, we can also see bits of our own. Though the cities are dreamlike and elusive, they somehow remind us of real places.
Another group of people who will love this book is non-readers. People who don’t read often usually explain that they either don’t have the time to, or that they have trouble concentrating. Because this book is broken up into such tiny pieces, it is easy to read, put down, and come back to later. It’s OK if you pick it up and can’t remember what happened last, because each story is stand-alone. Also because of this, it’s simple to ease into. So convince that reluctant person to read just a few pages, and they’ll be hooked.
If you like this book (pretty much a given), you’ll likely enjoy the author’s other works. Though each of his works has its peculiarities, much of the same tone and style can be observed.