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Review: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Similar to the last book I reviewed (George RR Martin's Fire & Blood), Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities is a difficult book to categorize. Ostensibly it is a fictional account of Marco Polo describing all the places he's traveled to Genghis Khan; however, the reader quickly comes to realize that the "novel" is more than that. These descriptions of made-up cities are fantastical and surrealist and their purpose seems to be more about touching on some aspect of human nature than actually describing places. The language used in these descriptions is beautiful and the book can almost be taken as a collection of prose poems as opposed to an actual narrative. I enjoyed reading this book--but it wasn't what I expected.

Bottom line: If you approach Invisible Cities as you would a book of poetry, you can appreciate its beautiful language and interesting ideas; if you come looking for a story, you'll be disappointed.

Bonus: In researching this book, I came across an article about a Lima-based architect named Karina Puente who set off on a personal project to illustrate every one of Calvino's cities. The illustrations are remarkable.


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