top of page
  • Writer's pictureAKO

Invisible Cities Book Review

Long time no posting huh? Well, I’m back and with a GREAT READ that got me thinking about St. Louis and people I’ve met and places I want to go, my desires. This is my book review on Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. What a beautiful collection of weird, ironic, paradoxical tales describing these cities: cities of the dead, of desires, of hidden cities. Why do we have this need to travel? To see things other than our front lawn and rusty mailbox?

I’ve been into these stories and novels where it’s unconventional, stuff that publishers don’t like publishing because it doesn’t go with the status quo, stuff that doesn’t make it on Target bookshelves or “top reading lists.” This is where the truth comes from, where you find ideas that you relate to that people don’t talk about freely, stories that make you question everything around you.

Invisible Cities is a fictional story about Marco Polo, who is trying to explain to Kublai Khan (an emperor in China) about these cities he has visited. Marco explains them not only in words, but gestures, figures, drawings, to the point that even us readers question the authenticity of what is said about these cities.

This book was so intriguing to me because it encompasses the premise of tourism; what premonitions or ideas we bring to the cities we travel, why we want to escape what we are used to and get other glimpses of places that maybe we don’t understand or can’t quite grasp.

Marco Polo shows how in every city our desires and dreams, our realities and expectations all coincide to give us our perspective of that city; to where if you and I visited the same city, we’d have totally different experiences.

In this novel, you have the city of Isidora, where men desire to come to this city with beautiful women and spiral staircases, but people never reach Isidora until their old age, and at that point their desires are different. The city Anastasia, where it’s a beautiful city made of the finest jewels and materials, yet the people can’t fully enjoy the city because they all have to work. Fedora, a city with a crystal globe in all rooms to where you see different models of the city. And these are ideas that come from the people, always wanting things to be different, imagining ways to make it the ideal city. Zobeide, a city of desire where everyone has a dream of this beautiful woman running through the city, so the inhabitants go through the city trying to find this woman and get lost. I could go on and on but oh my, these cities in this collection were absolutely delicious, in terms of imagery and ideas behind them.

Calvino separates the cities in different titles; cities &... memory, desire, signs, eyes, names, the dead, the sky, continuous cities, hidden cities, trading cities, thin cities. He talks about cities were people never make true connections or even eye contact, cities of the dead being in an underground world, cities calculated perfectly with the stars and universe so it creates a perfect city yet instead it created a city of monsters. All this just resonates too closely with me.

How have times changed? How has the city you live in changed because of the inhabitants or how has it maybe stayed the same while the world changes around it? Am I the only one that sees the same people, voices, jobs, problems, roles in the world around us, in cities across the US? I know I can’t be the only one who has wanted to run and leave St. Louis behind or my home to find something else... the desire to want a more perfect city or to chase a dream I have, but is it realistic? Is there a thing such as a new city unlike yours? Maybe at first, but does it end up repeating the things you have seen?

I don’t really have answers to any of this nor am I trying to make you think a specific route, it is genuinely my questions through this read. I don’t have words to describe this book other than a lucid dream, a pile of nonsense yet it makes complete sense. So that being said… READ THIS.

Love, AKO


Thanks for reading everyone! I appreciate each and everyone of you for taking the time out of your busy lives to read what I have to say. I pray my words can spark a thought, a lost hope, or a will to reach for the stars inside of you.

I'll link my book insta page which has short reviews, cute quotes, and giveaways.

bottom of page