Upon first reading this journal prompt, I was happy to see that it was all about picking a favorite city. I thought to myself “this should be easy!” However, after reading Calvino’s book, and reading the prompt again, it is not as easy as it appears. I found it difficult to choose a favorite city, simply because the cities are, well…invisible. Despite the fact that each of us will read the same description for the cities, our mental vision of each will be very different, and we will choose our favorite city based on these visions. Perhaps this is the meaning behind the title “Invisible Cities”, how can these cities Marco Polo is depicting be visible, if every reader has a different image of the cities? This dialogue between Kahn and Polo describes this very point:
“Kublai asks Marco, “When you return to the West, will you repeat to your people the same tales you tell me?” “I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting…It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.”
I noticed that I did exactly what Marco Polo is describing here. After reading through each of the cities, I decided my favorites were Adelma, Argia, and Olinda. Adelma is a chilling city filled with deceased friends and family of Marco Polo. However when we, the audience, envision this city it will be completely different for each of us. The city will not be filled with the deceased people Marco Polo speaks of, but people we know. The city of Adelma is so haunting to Marco Polo, that is makes him question his own state of being. I like Adelma because it is not just another city, filled with beautiful scenery. It is an unsettling city, one which makes the foreigner question even his own existence. Argia is another city, very different from the rest, because instead of air, it has earth (pp.126). I chose Argia because it reminded me of the kind of environment worms and insects live in. It is completely opposite from our customary cities, filled with fresh air, and lots of space to move around. “The dampness destroys people’s bodies and they have scant strength; everyone is better off remaining still, prone… “ (pp.126). I like Argia, simply because it gives us a different perspective of the word city. Out of the three cities, however, Olinda is my very favorite. My reasoning for picking Olinda is not because it painted the prettiest image in my mind, or that it intrigued me the most of all the cities. It is simply because I was able to understand it better than all the rest because of the way in which Marco Polo described it.
After I read the description the words, “lymph” and “blossoming” stood out to me. I linked them to biology, and in doing so was able to understand the workings of the city. In my mind, Olinda is eternal. The name, to me, actually looks like the city, circular and continuous. I have discovered that the cities Marco Polo describes cannot be taken as literal cities, but rather seen symbolically. Therefore, what I liked most about Olinda is that it is a city of ironies. Despite its eternal nature, new structures are continually added. So it is old, and new, both static and ever-changing. To me, Olinda can represent us as human beings. Despite growing old and gaining knowledge, our essence remains the same, just like the city of Olinda.