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Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities: Marco Polo

1008 words - 4 pages

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 exploring a new city. His “implicit” city, the place he “distinguishes the other cities’ qualities” acts as his point of comparison to all new experiences (Calvino 86). With a singular reference point, Marco Polo subconsciously associates similar experiences with this implicit city that stands above the rest. His implicit city is his home, Venice, Italy, and with his journeys he relates each comparison back to his home. Marco’s love for Venice places the city upon a pedestal, in which each new city’s relationship is a comparison between the two. The memories Marco Polo has of his implicit city structure the relationship he has with a new experience, “between each idea and each point of the itinerary an affinity or a contrast can be established, serving as an immediate aid to memory” (Calvino 16). Marco’s perception of a new city is built upon the memories and moments he has gained in Venice.
Connections with the past build the foundation of Marco Polo’s relationship to new cities. His vision of the world is a momentary response to his single experience. The comparing and contrasting or memories with experiences helps Kublai Khan formulate his...

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