Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: Marco Polo

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Within Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo recalls from memory cities he has visited and explored. While reciting his accounts to Kublai Khan, the reader views each city as an entity of its own. Small anecdotes from Kublai Khan insist that he views the individual experiences as small fragments of one, singular city. Kublai Khan’s reinterpretation of Marco Polo’s experiences change the meaning behind Marco Polo’s experiences whether they be from multiple cities or an implicit city divided up into many moments. The reader’s perspective on Marco Polo’s stories changes with a second look by Kublai Khan, a revised point of view.

The individual experiences of Marco Polo are laid out into separate cities with a unique element. His accounts describe cities with arches or canals, like spider webs or filled with skyscrapers, all very different yet still two may be connected in a way. Each individual recitation of a city is important to the moment in which Marco experienced it. The “city displays one face to the traveler arriving overland and a different one to him who arrives by sea,” each varying greatly in the approach of the explorer (Calvino 17). With different first glances at a city, the experience one has with a city is very distinctive. First experiences set a tone for city, and the moments an explorer would share on land or at sea would be polar opposites. The moment where Marco Polo first experienced a city dictated the tone of the new place. The experience the reader has of Marco Polo’s accounts are dependent upon the diction and style he tells of his journeys. A relationship with a moment is a direct reaction of past memories.

Marco Polo’s view of the world is based upon what he compares each moment to when...

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...ader may not catch on to Kublai Khan’s point of view. A second point of view is necessary to see this connected thread throughout Polo’s ‘journey.’ In conversation with Marco Polo, Kublai Khan defines the journey he talks about “so then, yours is truly a journey through memory” (Calvino 98). A journey through memories directly breaks up the idea that each ‘city’ is an individual place. The memories that comprise this journey are places themselves within Venice. Various experiences make up Marco experiences at different instances within Venice. The interweaving style of these memories builds a single city that gathers important details from the past. Without reflection upon the past, the importance and significance of places within the memory of Polo may not be significant enough to recall.

Italo Calvino . Invisible Cities, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978

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