Regular price: $20.99

Free with 30-day trial
Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo - Tartar emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts the emperor with tales of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. Soon it becomes clear that each of these fantastic places is really the same place.

©1972 Giulio Einaudi Editore (P)2013 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant." (Gore Vidal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    99
  • 4 Stars
    45
  • 3 Stars
    33
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    15

Performance

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    91
  • 4 Stars
    49
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    6

Story

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    89
  • 4 Stars
    31
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    13
  • 1 Stars
    16
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 10-04-16

Beautiful prose poems read too quickly

Invisible Cities is a perfect book, endlessly beautiful and thought-provoking. It can be read many times and you'll find new jewels in it every time.

I usually like John Lee, but he reads this book too quickly. It needed to be treated as poetry more than prose. Eventually I discovered that if I slowed the playback down to x0.75 speed my experience was much improved. It made Lee sound a little pompous, but at least he now seemed to be savouring every word. This is my advice to you!

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Magical Mystery Tour

Less a book than a series of prose-like poems, where language seems a magical tool that paints landscapes and cityscapes not confined by just what is known or possible. The words flow through your mind and spark the imagination, leading the listener on a guided imagery trip through worlds that seem suspended in another dimension and time. It is like a fabulous dessert -- it needs to be experienced, savored, and languished over. Originally published in 1972 with a cover that depicted a city of stone towers that rise from a large floating rock above an ocean; a picture that teased and hinted at what was inside (I still own my original dog-eared copy). There is no plot -- but plot seems irrelevant as you listen to Marco Polo conjure up cities that float between webs, joyous carnival cities, serious cities where no one makes eye contact or speaks, cities that you won't be returning to, "this is a city just for leaving," all to entertain the aging Kublai Khan. He creates his own cities that might dwell in his empire, asking Polo if he has seen these in his travels. You ponder the meaning of the words as they are used in this game between the two men, as well as the structure of the cities and their purpose. Reading this was wonderful; listening is another experience altogether. Close your eyes and experience a journey. Very short, just over 2 hours; something I will leave on my ipod and listen to again, like a beautiful and creative guided meditation.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Lavish language!

This is an outstanding book and performance. The language is so rich that I listened to certain portions more than once since it was hard to take everything in on the first pass.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Wayne
  • Irvine, CA, United States
  • 04-06-14

Falling down the Rabbit Hole

Having just read Invisible Cities by Calvino today, just about everything is at least swirling in newness of possibilities, like Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, or Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's travels.

I'm still in the rabbit hole, and don't know what I may have been smoking.

The story is of tales of cities visited by Marco Polo, as told to Kublai Khan. Sounds simple, but we realize that Marco Polo is the experiential adventurer in the world, while Kublai Khan is the intellectual summarizer of Marco Polo's experiences. Well, even that is up for grabs in the end, as who has the handle on reality--the adventurer or the intllectual?

At one point, Kublai Khan has reduced everything to nothing more than a chess game, black versus white, but in so doing, he looses all meaning. Then there is Marco Polo who has many adventures to report, but are they real, or just strung together experiences of illusion?

These philosophical positions are not new, but the experience of them is in the way that I like to be challenged by the new.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A fantastical journey

Told through a conversation between Kuala Kahn and Marco Polo of Polos journeys and the lands he discovered both real and imaginary.
John Lee as always does a fine job with the narration of this beautifully disruptive world.
It is a story of life and death of Heaven and hell.
Highly recommend to those who have read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and the Devine Comedy by Dante.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Stunning prose

An absolutely beautiful piece. The precision and clarity of the writing brings each city to life, but the book's highlight is the sheer scale of imagination. If the world can be brought into focus through metaphor, then this story will provide ample sources to sharpen your world.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Poetic, Enigmatic, Thought-Provoking

A travel logue to imaginary worlds, impossible cities and the inner reaches of the human soul.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Lovely rendition of a wonderful book.

Would you consider the audio edition of Invisible Cities to be better than the print version?

No. They are different from one another and I am glad to own both. John Lee's narration offers an almost meditative tone-poem of the book.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Invisible Cities?

When the swallows danced in the skies above the city made of pathways, both known and unknown.

Which character – as performed by John Lee – was your favorite?

There are barely two characters, Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn and it is uncertain whether they are even real. Perhaps the cities are the real characters. Perhaps there is only one character and it is one city and if that is the case, then the city is my favorite character in the book.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This is a book that delights. There aren't really highs or lows. There are only strange twisting vignettes of cities, the most wonderful cities. Or is it only one city?

Any additional comments?

Look, Invisible Cities clearly doesn't fit into the mold of these pre-written questions. It's a book about Marco Polo telling stories to Kublai Kahn about the cities he has visited. And the cities are all imaginative and strange and there is a weaving meta story about how Polo and the Kahn communicate and about the nature of cities and imagination and dreams. <br/><br/>John Lee's narration works well with the story. Normally I listen to these things at like 2x but for this story it was much better to slow it down to close to normal speed and let the images wash over you.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great pataphysical literature

What an amazing, intricate, linguistic dream of a book! It wraps a multitude of possible cities into an amalgam of Borgesian proportions. The narrator is both perfect and too dry by half.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

This book will blow your mind

Don’t read this book.

Don’t read it if you have any illusions of being able to write decently yourself. Because you will immediately realize that you will never, ever be able to write even one sentence that is half as beautiful as any sentence written by Calvino.

Don’t read it if you think you’ve ever had an original idea for a story. Because if you live to be 1,000 years old, you will never think of anything as unique as the ideas in this collection.

Don’t read it if you want things you read to be neat and tidy. Because rather than a tight plot with a clear beginning, middle and end, this is a series of loosely connected concepts and philosophical ideas that is closer to Waiting for Godot than it is to any science fiction you have ever read.

This little book blew my mind. I can’t wait to read it again.

[I listened to this as an audio book impeccably performed by John Lee.]

2 of 4 people found this review helpful