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Italo Calvino and the “Light City”

  Italo Calvino repeatedly read and pondered “The Travels of Marco Polo”, but as he said, he “didn’t intend to pursue the journey of this lucky Venetian merchant”, researching every place in the journey, He just used his travel notes to let his imagination run wild. Isn’t this a unique trip? ! In his writings, Marco Polo, a fantasy-loving traveler in Venice, had a dialogue with Kublai Khan, the old and melancholy ruler of the Tatar kingdom, and “Invisible Cities” was born. Through Marco Polo’s travel report, the Emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty learned about this growing city in the empire that he built himself but could not reach everywhere to witness. After Hemingway, another rising star of American rebellion, the famous novelist, playwright and essayist Gore Vidal once commented: “To explain the content of a book of incredible creativity like “The Invisible City” , is the most difficult of all tasks and is completely unnecessary.” When people stubbornly talked about the urban crisis caused by the destruction of the natural environment and the fragility of the huge technological system, Calvino seemed tired of saying any more urban mantras , this book is his reflection on “what the city is”, as Calvino himself put it, “the last love poem dedicated to the city”.
  The encounter with this book was still on a winter afternoon. The bright sunlight seemed to penetrate everything, the branches of the plane trees and the mottled light and shadow cast on the ground. This is my second year in Nanjing. I have not been lazy on such an afternoon. Instead, I walked briskly from NTU to the Pioneer Bookstore. I knew that I would gain something every time I went, and this time, I met Italo Calvino and Calvino’s “Books”. Invisible Cities”.
  What is the concept of “city”? What exactly is a city? Apart from “Harbin”, “Nanjing”, “Xiamen”, “Urumqi”, “Lhasa”, “Paris”, “London”, “New York”… Can we still see cities one by one? Is there a city that makes you sure as soon as you look up: yes, it is here! This is the question I have wondered countless times, like Gauguin’s painting – “Where do we come from?” who are we? Where are we going? ”, maybe each of us has questioned this ultimate existence, but we have never been able to answer it.
  The ancient Greek philosopher Archytas said: “Existence is in a place”, and a city is such a place, perhaps in essence, a city represents a place – in space we settle and can explain The specific location of our identity. Calvino considered a city to be a place “like a dream, made of longing and fear.” In “Invisible Cities” one cannot find a recognizable city, all cities are fictional Yes, Calvino gave each city a nice name for a woman. Just like in real life, they are concrete cities one by one. When you finish enjoying the scenery of each city in the book and understand each city You may feel again that all the landscapes and stories, the memories, desires, symbols, names… only in a real city you will experience, own and see, they are no longer just It is a representation in the book but more like a representation of a real city, they can see it. Maybe it will answer its own doubts, or at least find a way out for its doubts. “If you love him, send him to New York, because it is heaven; if you hate him, send him to New York, because it is hell.” This is a classic line in the TV series “Peking Man in New York”. It conveys our complicated feelings about the city. However, in “Invisible Cities”, Calvino didn’t express this complicated feeling very much. He turned his feelings for the city into natural flowing streams, either urgent or slow, while He never bothered, he calmly expressed beauty, ugliness, good and evil.
  The small book of only 166 pages contains all the paths we think about the city, and here I only want to imagine Calvino’s thinking about the city along one path – the light city.
  In the “Memorandum of Literature in the New Millennium”, Calvino focused on “lightness” as the first topic. He said that he “has more experience with lightness” and “will maintain the value of lightness”. In “Invisible Cities”, he also uses “lightness” as one of the themes, Calvino believes that “maybe these more slender images (‘light cities’ or others) are the most shining areas of this book. ”, these gleaming, light cities surprise you but seem familiar.
  ”Isaura” is a city of a thousand wells built on an extremely deep underground lake, some inhabitants of the city believe that the gods of the city inhabit the depths of the black lake that supplies water to the underground streams, while others believe that the gods live in all the Among the tools that draw water upwards, buckets, reels, pressurized pumps, windmill brackets, and even the weather vane overhead, yes, this is a city where everything moves upwards like lifting water from a deep well. The deep lake is a nutrient supply station for the growth of the city, and they believe that there is always a city god at the bottom of the deep lake. This is a city that has turned its heavy history into a stepping stone, like Boccaccio in “Decameron”. Like the Florentine poet Guido Cavalcanti, in the face of the teasing and ridicule of the playboys in the cemetery, Guido just put a big hand on a large tombstone, leaped lightly, and fell to the tombstone. On the other side, “the tomb is your home, not my home.” When he left the tomb, Calvino once said that this kind of light movement from the body to the soul “impresses me the most” and makes him think deeply. The way of “lightness”, as Calvino said, “The invisible landscape determines the visible landscape. Everything that moves under the sun is driven by the slap of water waves under the closed Cretaceous rocks.” .
  Although “Zenobia” is located in a dry area, it is built on high and low piles, with suspended corridors and balconies criss-crossing. If it is in a mountainous area with high mountains and steep slopes, it is not easy to level and excavate the foundation, coupled with the changeable rainy, humid and foggy climate, this kind of building may be understood, but the city of Zhenobia in a dry and flat area. Why did the creators of the city give the city such a face? Maybe no one remembers it for a long time, maybe the design of the early years has long been like the sand in the desert where the wind blows, and the sand will be blown here. Although in our opinion, it is not wise to criss-cross this way, and they have long been used to this, and that this is a happy life, in this case, it does not make sense to divide the city into the category of happiness or not, Calvino said: “If you want to distinguish, there are two other categories: one is the city that has experienced the vicissitudes of life and continues to let desire determine its form; the other is the city that is either obliterated by desire or obliterated by desire.”
  ”Almira” is a city with only water pipes and white washware. She has no walls and no roof, like a forest of pipes, with faucets, shower heads, siphons or overflow pipes at each end. However, this is not an empty city. There are young girls combing their long hair and taking a bath… The splashes of water and the soap foam on the sponge bath brush are flashing with colorful lights. Is this an abandoned city? Or did the water gods invade and drive humans away because of the misuse of water sources? Calvino’s explanation is: This is a city ruled and blessed by water fairies and water gods.
  ”Sofronia” is composed of two half cities, one is the eternal city of entertainment, roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, motorcyclists, circuses, and the other is a place to study and work, which happens to be This side is temporary, they need to be demolished once the time limit is up, and the entertainment venue will be quiet, and once the demolition and resettlement work is over, this side will be noisy again… Residents here and people from any area in any historical period It is the same, people and things change from generation to generation, but what remains unchanged is the child-like playful nature in people’s hearts. Sofronya, as a city, satisfies people’s most basic demands.
  The city base of “Otavia” is a net, the city is suspended in the air between two steep mountains, and this net is only a passage, the whole city is actually hanging under the net, rope ladders, clothes drying racks , balcony, leather water bag and gas mouthpiece… As long as you can think of everything hanging under the net, there is an abyss under the city, you must think that life here requires trembling and carefulness everywhere, it must be disturbing, but in fact It was “that the lives of the residents of Octavia are no more disturbing than those of other cities, and they know that their net can only support so much”. Yes, where desire and urban form shape each other, perhaps the space, walls, and streets of the city are built by people according to the way they pursue their desires, but the residents of Octavia are not slaves of Sex and the City, They weave their desires into a web, and they know exactly how much the web can hold!
  Calvino has been reducing the weight of these cities. For Calvino, “lightness is associated with spirit and firmness, not ambiguity and randomness”. Like Paul Valery said: “It should be as light as a bird, not as a feather”, this should also be what Calvino called “lightness of thought”! He cites a story told by Boccaccio in the Decameron about the Florentine poet Guido Cavalcanti to illustrate that even though the human body has gravity and the poet Guido has the secret of lightness, it proves that many What one thinks is the dynamism of the age – the hustle, the aggression, the acceleration and the roar… But these belong to the realm of death, like a junkyard. Isn’t it the city too? !
  In 1985, Italo Calvino was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but he died in September of a sudden cerebral hemorrhage while preparing for a lecture on Norton’s Poetry at Harvard University. A splendid superstar has fallen, but the sky of the city is still starry. Calvino specifically mentioned two virtues of the residents of “Andrea” in the book: self-confidence and prudence. He said: “Any reform of the city will affect the sky, and before making every decision to change, you must carefully weigh the risks and benefits to yourself, the city and the world.” In “Invisible Cities” ,” Calvino “will tell you what you want to know,” but he “never tells you the truth.”

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