Concepts Of Symbolism In Calvino's Le Città Invisibili

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In Calvino’s Le città invisibili the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan is unable to keep track of his expanding and also decaying empire and so he sends a traveller, Marco Polo to visit the cities. Marco Polo travels to fifty cities in the empire and returns to describe the cities to the Khan. Le città invisibili is a fragmented text in which there are two levels; one is the italicised dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo and the other is Marco Polo’s description of the cities. In this novel Calvino evokes feelings of “nostalgia for lost illusions, loves that never quite were, happiness perhaps only tasted” (Bloom, 2002) The male point of view predominates in Calvino’s Le città invisibili. In this novel the city is a metaphor for the female body, and so in the text women’s bodies are subjected to the male gaze of Marco Polo, and through description that of Kublai Khan. Calvino himself reiterates this metaphor for the city as a woman when he says, “I believe that I have written something like a last love poem addressed to the city” (Modena, 2011). Le città invisibili asserts itself as a bodily construct, among other things. The cities appear to be fundamentally female bodies and there are recurring parallelisms between bodily processes and urban constructs. The cities that Calvino creates are born, grow, reproduce and die. “She develops diseases, neuroses and disabilities, such as congestion, tumorous overgrowth, hyperactivity” (Cavallaro, 2010). The city displays

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