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Showing posts from July 24, 2022

Italo Calvino and the Person from Porlock

  Inspired to re-read Italo Calvino, I am at present in ‘Invisible Cities’ (1972). It’s a fantasy dialogue between two 13 th -century contemporaries, Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, in which accounts of exotic cities leave one wondering if they existed, or are all in the mind of Italo Calvino. Remarks by a critic on the jacket are a spoiler: “Calvino is describing only one city in this book. Venice, that decaying heap of incomparable splendour…” It is true Marco Polo was a Venetian, that he travelled to Shangdu, and that on page 86 he says, “Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.” But this is too literal an explanation, too final, as if the author’s intentions could be summarised. Each city described by Polo, or in Kublai’s dreams, is one of childlike impressions grounded in adult experience. The cities enjoy an existence that is only spoken about, that may have been like that then, but may not be now. Their precariousness is as valuable a quality as their beauty,