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1-Page Summary of Invisible Cities
Kublai Khan is listening to Marco Polo describe the cities he’s seen, but doesn’t entirely believe him. He feels that his empire is too large for him to understand and worries about its corruption. Through Marco’s stories, Kublai begins to see that there are patterns in his empire and realizes it can be fixed.
Marco Polo describes a city named Diomira with many towers. People who see it from afar feel envy, thinking that they’ve experienced similar evenings and were happy. A person can find every delight in Isidora, but men arrive there when they’re old, not young. It’s possible to describe Dorothea by listing its exports; however, as a camel driver told Marco Polo once said about Dorothea, the city opens up horizons for people. Kublai Khan then asks Marco about Zaira and is told that it has measurements of certain things that correspond to events in the past in such a way that people feel like they can enjoy the city even though their experiences are limited because of this connection between present and past places. In Tamara, people don’t actually see things but instead see pictures or sculptures which refer to other things so that one never discovers what is real or what isn’t since everything is connected through these representations of objects (or ideas). The experience becomes unforgettable because nothing changes over time so it disappears from memory after being visited once by travelers who have trouble remembering anything specific about the place due to its unchanging nature throughout time despite each traveler having different experiences while visiting Zora which causes them all to forget specifics about where they’ve been at some point during their visit there as well as how long they stayed there before moving on elsewhere within Despina whose appearance varies depending upon where you come from making everyone think differently when describing its appearance thus making everyone believe something unique about Despina itself though no two visitors remember exactly the same thing while experiencing either Zirma or Isaura both cities built over an underground lake with differing opinions regarding whether these gods live in wells beneath those cities or within their lakes themselves
Marco Polo and Kublai Khan speak different languages, so Marco uses objects to communicate with Kublai. Eventually, Marco learns the language and begins teaching Kublai about his empire. He tells him that when he knows the meanings of every object, he will become an emblem like them. At this point, they both fall into silence and think about what Marco could have meant by saying that people are better off knowing where they came from and how they fit in the world.
In the city of Maurilia, people idealize a past version of their city. In Fedora, there’s a museum filled with models of Fedoras and each model is someone’s idea about what should be in the city. In Zenobia, everyone thinks that their own idealized version of the city looks like Zenobia; they think that it is unique to them. Meanwhile, Euphemia is a trading post where merchants gather to exchange stories but when they leave, they can’t remember any stories at all because other people’s stories have corrupted theirs. Marco describes things using gestures and objects rather than words so his listeners can use their imaginations as well. Kublai finds this entertaining for awhile until he spends most of his time sitting silently with Marco instead of talking anymore because he understands him so well now that communication has become less fun for both men who have learned to speak in exactly the same way (and therefore are no longer able to communicate).