Draft: Calvino – Invisible Cities

“It is the desperate moment when we discover that this empire, which had seemed to us the sum of all wonders, is an endless, formless ruin…” (5)


“the emperor is he who is a foreigner to each of his subjects, and only though foreing eyes and ears could the empire manifest its eistence to Kublai.” 21



9 Billion Names of God — if he can grasp his empire in his minds eye, it will cease to be…

Einstein’ s Dreams— episodic vignettes of relativity

“You advance always with your head turne dback?” or “Is what you see always behind you?” or rather “does your journey take place only in the past?” (28) angelus novus.

“Marco enteres a city; he sees someone in a square lviing a life or an instant that could be his; he could now be in that man’s palce, if he had stoppped in time, long ago; or if, long ago, at a crossroads, instead of taking one road he had taken the opposite one, and after long wnadering he had come to be in te lace of tha tman in that square.  By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city , where naother of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present Futures not achieved are only brsanches ofthe past: dead branches.” (29)

“In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagned a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his iniatrue model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.” (32) the city of all plans, no action.

“..it is pointless trying to decide whether [a city] is to be classifeid among happy cities or among the unhappy.  It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, bur rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it.” (35)

“Yes, the empire is sick,a nd , what is worse, it is trying to become acustomed to its sores.” (59)

“No one, wise Kublai knows better than you that the city must never be confuse with the words that describe it.” (61)

“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead out-number the living.  And the mind refused to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it fins the most suitable mask.” (95)

The emperor becomes is trying to understand precisely what it means to have an empire.  What that concept even means in the first place.  If it is a place, or if it is an idea.  If it cannot be observed, (it is what Timothy Morton would call a hyperobject)

“Irene is a name for a city in the distance, and if you approach, it changes. For those who pass it witouht enteiring, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave.” (NYC)

“Why is Thekla’s construction taking such a long time?”…”So that its destruction cannot begin.”…”What is the aim of a cit under construction unless it is a city? Where is the plan you are follwiing, the blueprint?” –“We will show it to you as soon as the working day is over; we cannot interrupt our work now,” they answer. Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. “There is teh blueprint,” they say. (127)

The quantity of things that could be read in a little piece of smooth and empty wood overwhelmed the Kublai; Polo was already talking about ebony forets, abour rafts laden with logs that come down the rivers, of docks, of women at teh windwos…” 132)


Andria “Our city and the sky correspond so perfectly,” they answered, “taht any change in Andria invovles some novelty among th estars.”  The astronomers, after each change takes place in Andria, peer into their telescopes and report a nova’s explosion, or a remote point in the firmament change of color from orange to yellow, the expansion of a nebula, teh bending of a spiral of the Milky Way. Each change implides a sequence of other changes, in ANdria as among the stars: the city and the sky never remain the same.  As for the character of ANdria’s inhabitants, two virtures are worht mentioning: self-confidence and prudence. Concinced that every innovation in the city influences the sky’s patter, before taking any decision they calculate the risks and advantages for themselves and fo rthe city and for all worlds.” <–reversal of cosmic correspondences.
Borges’s short stories.


Time-Space Travel

1001 Nights

Einstein’s Dreams

Cities are people. All cities are invisible.



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