29 August 2019

Book Review: Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

This is a very interesting book, not necessarily because of the narrative and the plot that is presented, but more because of its mathematical precision. See, Italo Calvino is a member of the Oulipo literary group, which is composed of writers that wanted to write literature that satisfy some challenging aspect (e.g. like writing a novel without using the letter E). This book actually has a mathematical order imposed on it, with cities being narrated one after another, like a grid or a matrix.

The frame to this story is a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Marco Polo narrates to Kublai Khan the various cities that he has visited, and most of these narrations are more fantastic than realistic. These snippets of the conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo delineates the various different cities that are described in prose poetry.

If you're looking for a story, then this book is probably not for you. But this book delivers something else. It pushes the boundary of what a novel could look like. It also adds a very precise metric structure to the narrative, which reminds me more of musical compositions than literature. This is a literary work that I thought needed much forward thinking and conception because it seems that Calvino would have finalised the skeletal structure of the novel before actually writing the prose. I must say I admire the style, and recommend it to anyone that is a fan of his more known book. If you have read If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and loved it then you might like this one too. The structure of both books after all is quite nifty and phenomenal. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

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