Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is written in such a way that while reading, we begin to see that there are two opposing outlooks which the main characters, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, take when observing or imagining a city. It is very interesting to see how initially these two opposing viewpoints were separated and was seemingly conflicting, but as the novel progresses and the exchanges between Khan and Polo develop, we begin to see how the two views are intertwined and connected in a way in which you cannot simply choose the broad or narrow view, but you must incorporate both aspects to truly understand the meanings behind cities. Marco Polo and the Khan were also fairly different in their views of cities initially, but it seems that as they interact more they begin to accept or at least consider other's perspective and analyze it until they understand it more. Although there are these two viewpoints, I feel that the novel initially itself pushes the reader in a direction to accept one of them and then later makes the reader realize that these viewpoints are almost the same.
[...] However, this leads to a point of disagreement and conflict between the two and the return to a more visual sort of communication and I feel this is when Khan starts to accept the more general and ambiguous view of cities. The demonstrations and gestures through which Polo communicates forces Khan to interpret what he is saying and make his own sense of the cities he is being told about. This is really explained well by Polo himself when he says, “It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear” (135). [...]
[...] 69 “And yet I have constructed in my mind a model city from which all possible cities that can be deduced,” Kublai said. “It contains everything corresponding to the norm. Since cities that exist diverge in varying degree from the norm, I need only foresee the exceptions to the norm and calculate the most probable combinations.” This shows that he is treating cities almost like an equation and is trying to find a formula that fits all cities, in which he can simple swap certain elements and the city should still exist. [...]
[...] 132 The quantity of things that could be read in a little piece of smooth and empty wood overwhelmed Kublai; Polo was already talking about ebony forests, about rafts laden with logs that come down the rivers, of docks, of women at the windows… I feel as if by the end of the novel, the two opposing views of understanding cities that were introduced initially now become unified into one. It is impossible to really understand a city truly well through either the specific details or broad connections and similarities alone. We must be able to go from focusing on individual aspects of cities, to seeing the interactions and relationships between all these individual elements and only then, may we be able to really understand the meanings behind cities and how or why they exist in the first place. Bibliography Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. Orlando: Harcourt, 1974. [...]
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