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October 18, 2008


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Nice segue into Invisible Cities, with its dialog between the Khan, preeminent collector of cities, and Polo, the great Venetian connoisseur of cities. For me, its perpetual re-readability qualifies it as a classic, according to one of Calvino's own 14 definitions in "Why Read the Classics?" -- it also fits Senor Borges' description in "Other Inquisitions" of a classic that creates its own precursors, in this case surely Borges' own "Parable of the Palace" and "The Wall and the Books." And as earlier precursors I'd include Kafka's "Pekin and the Emperor," "The Great Wall and the Tower of Babel," "The Building of the Temple," "The Building of a City," "In the Caravansery," (and others from the same collection, "Parables and Paradoxes") and of course the fragment, "A Message from the Emperor." Incidentally, that concept about the creation of literary precursors comes from Borges' "Kafka and his Precursors," (nominating Zeno, Han Yu, Kierkegaard, Browning...). It is echoed in "Why Read the Classics?" in definition 12: "A classic is a work that comes before other classics; but those who have read other classics first immediately recognise its place in the genealogy of classic works." See also the very Borgesian definition 10: "A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans."



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