Thursday, 28 May 2009

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

One of my favourite cities:

pg. 75
Thin Cities


If you choose to believe me, good. Now I will tell how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; father down you can glimpse the chasm's bed.

This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as a passage and as support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children's games, cable cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.

Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia's inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will last only so long.

pg. 44
'With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus [A rebus (Latin: "by things") is a kind of word puzzle that uses pictures to represent words or parts of words] that conceals a desire or, it reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.'

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