Initially after reading Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I was very confused as to what was happening in the plot line. However, after reading it again, and consulting our brilliant Professor, Ron, I discovered that the plot line was difficult to understand because it there really isn’t an obvious one, or at least one I am used to with a definite beginning, and developed characters. The book is essentially Marco Polo, a Venetian traveler, depicting various cities he has traveled to (or made up in his own mind as I discovered), and recounting them back to Kublai Kahn, the emperor. A large amount of the book consists of philosophical dialogue between The Kahn and Marco Polo. I found that during these conversations a clear connection is made between the two men, although the connection is not always implicit. For example, Calvino wrote “…between the two of them it did no matter whether questions and solutions were uttered aloud or whether each of the two went on pondering in silence” (pp. 27). Calvino offers no distinction between inner and outer realities, therefore we often times don’t know if they are speaking aloud, or in their own minds. Being a biology major, this was difficult for me to grasp this particular concept, seeing as everything I study is an outer reality I am able to see, touch, and study.
Their conversations also, are not always verbal ones. For example, he writes, “Marco Polo could express himself only by drawing objects from his bag…and pointing to them with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder or of horror, imitating the bay of the jackal, the hoot of the owl” (pp. 38). Kublai Kahn and Marco Polo’s relationship was so strong they were able to communicate even without words. In fact, often times Marco Polo preferred to rely only on gestures, and glances rather than words (pp.39). Although I found it difficult to understand reading it the first time through, I am beginning to appreciate Calvino’s purpose for his book. Marco Polo’s journey is comparable to our own journeys, here in Italy. We are traveling not only to discover things outside our own conventional worlds, but to also find ourselves.