Calvino's Invisible Cities Is a Different Take Essay

Download this Essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Essay:

Calvino's Invisible Cities is a different take on the novel. It disposes of the traditional chronological narrative and organizes the story according to themes such as cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and names, etc.… The novel's thematic organization allows Calvino to de-emphasize the traditional characteristics of cities, such as their material structure and their uniqueness from other cities.

Calvino uses this thematic narrative to emphasize what is common to all cities. Thesis: For Calvino, what is common to all cities is the role of human perception, colored by desire and fear, in creating those cities, which can exist for us only as myths. Because our desires and fears persist no matter the city we are in, all cities are ultimately the same until we can live independent of desire and fear.

The Significance of Calvino's Juxtapositions

Dreams and Fears

Calvino posits that cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears. (Calvino 44). That is, our perception of the city, and our perception of its consequences, are the only aspects of the city that actually matter to us. Marco proves this when he points out that the curious, power-hungry Kublai "…take[s] delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours." (Calvino 44).

He demonstrates the similarities between cities and dreams by showing that they are all rooted in desires and fears. "With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear." Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears…" (Calvino 44). Kublai later demonstrates this as he thinks about the network of cities in his empire, thinking of the enormous trade and production that will occur, only to later worry that the empire is being crushed by its own weight. (73).

Ideologies and Myths

Calvino teaches that, for humans, cities exist most significantly as myths. In attempting to describe the city of Aglaura, Marco observes what he can say from having lived in the city will never be as "real" as the myths formulated about the city. The inhabitants reports' of the city's "…proverbial virtues,… proverbial faults, a few eccentricities…," are an "…enduring assortment of qualities…" attributed to Aglaura by ancient observers. (Calvino 66) Marco laments that "…these accounts create a solid and compact image of a city, whereas the haphazard opinions which might be formed from living there have less substance." (Calvino 66).

Calvino points out that there are always two cities which exist, "…the city that people speak of and the city that exists on its site." (Calvino 66). Clearly, a different city exists for the city's inhabitants, who believe that the city will exist as such no matter what Marco's experience of the city indicates. Such myths that we construct about of our city and others are part of what Calvino calls the "…invisible reasons which make the cities live…" (Calvino 136).

Aspirations and Disillusionments

Calvino's descriptions provide insight into each individual's inner journey by picking apart the elements of our outer journeys, through our travels. Calvino also shows that our experience of a city has more to do with ourselves than with the city. Cities are usually too large for any one person to explore completely. Thus, our experience of any city is always incomplete, the product of our limited experience of the city.

Furthermore, Calvino shows that all of our reality is never an objective reality, but a subjective reality determined by our desires. When describing the miniature models of Fedora housed in Fedora's museum, Marco reflects that every visitor to the museum chooses the city that corresponds to his desires, contemplates it, and imagines himself enjoying it. (Calvino 32).

What Calvino's Cities Describe

Calvino's cities describe the confluence of the individual's perception and that which is perceived. These elements are the invisible processes and dynamics that animate a city. This is the reason for the title, "Invisible Cities."

In describing the city of Zaira to Kublai, Marco insists that the city does not consist of mere material structures, but of the "…relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past…" (Calvino 10). He points to the city of…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Calvino's Invisible Cities Is A Different Take" (2012, February 26) Retrieved October 22, 2016, from

"Calvino's Invisible Cities Is A Different Take" 26 February 2012. Web.22 October. 2016. <>

"Calvino's Invisible Cities Is A Different Take", 26 February 2012, Accessed.22 October. 2016,

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Marco Polo The Explorer in

    This suggests that Polo feels an obligation to tell his readers, with whom he shares a common sympathy and culture, about the strangeness and wonders of the Orient, prioritizing the strange above the ordinary. Also it implies that these tales seem strange and magic on their surfaces. This hyperawareness of strangeness, in contrast with making strangeness have a veneer of normalcy when talking about different people and places to

  • Postmodern Cities and Consumption Postmodernist

    In a world that is marked by homogeneity, capitalism has favorable conditions to grow. However with changes in thinking and urban theory, instead of describing this concept in terms of production, it is now consumption that defines our times. We are living in a consumer society or a consumerist culture because consumption drives production instead of it being the other way around. People have now become more liberal in

  • Waste Land French Lieutenant the

    (Eliot, 1971). The Subjective over the Objective Modernism was a reaction against Realism and its focus on objective depiction of life as it was actually lived. Modernist writers derived little artistic pleasure from describing the concrete details of the material world and the various human doings in it. They derived only a little more pleasure from describing the thoughts of those humans inhabiting the material world. Their greatest pleasure, however, was

  • Marketing the Effect of Movies

    As a testament to the respect he garners in the neighborhood, however, he is allowed to pass by without being sprayed by the water. Radio Raheem's warrior status is first challenged in the film by a group of Latinos hanging out on their front stoop. They are listening to the radio, which is blasting Latin music. Suddenly, Radio Raheem appears, with his ghetto blaster pumping out Public Enemy. The Latinos

  • Colombia Is the Third Largest Recipient

    During this penultimate period of violence under Rojas, the violence that wracked Colombia assumed a number of different characteristics that included an economic quality as well as a political one with numerous assassinations taking place. These were literally contract killings there were sponsored by opposition forms. There were also horrendous genocidal acts that were carried out by gangs combined with authentic revolutionary fighting in some regions of the country. The fourth

Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved