A slim little volume but an outsized triumph of imagination. A beautifully written meditation on place and on memory. We slowly realize that some or all of these cities (as portrayed by Marco Polo to Kublai Khan) may be fabrications; but perhaps that is the point. In a work of fiction, what role do complete fictions play?
A friend of mine is working on a long set of pieces for string quartet, each one based on one of the cities portrayed in this book.
There's good reason this is a classic. A profound meditation on perception, memory, and human existence.
"Signs form a language, but not the one you think you know." So, like, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo are just kicking it in a garden and M-Pol starts telling the Khan stories of these fantastic cities, which maybe are all the same city? The great Italian fabulist's novel is a paean to storytelling and imagination in the tradition of the Arabian Nights, Chaucer and Calvino's countryman Boccaccio. I still think "If On A Winter's Night" is his best work. You may also like Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco.
Marco Polo is describing fabulous cities to Kubla Khan. Each city's description is a short prose poem of sorts. At first I thought it was something of a homage to Borges, but as it kept piling on the cities it became a rather grueling read and seemed more and more contrived. For me it could lose 50 or more pages and only gain thereby. PS I have no problem with postmodern fiction in general.
Fascinating, and fun in a very, very advanced literary way. The book's entirely short pieces linked together, none more than 5 pages and most 1-2.
This short work is so magical, and undescribeable. One of the great little books of the 20th Century. It owes much to Borges for its design and inspiration, but it is all Calvino's.
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