The city with earth instead of air.
The city with no thickness... just a face, like a sheet of paper.
The city of spider webs, strings stretched from home to home, marking trade routes, bloodlines, power.
The city that grows from the inside out, concentric circles expanding as the newest jewel of the city blooms at its heart.
The city fabricated from dream matter.
The city of the unborn.
These are the cities dreamed up by Italo Calvino, the celebrated Italian writer. “He took fiction into new places where it had never been before,” John Updike wrote after Calvino’s death in 1985, “and back into the fabulous and ancient sources of narrative.”
Read the examples below, and then fabricate your own imagined city, giving it a name and short description. Your city could be based on a place you know, with added fantastical elements. Or you could dream up a blueprint entirely from imagination, giving life to the seemingly impossible.
And for added inspiration, check out this week's featured piece
Examples from Invisible Cities:
THIN CITIES: ARMILIA
Whether Armilla is like this because it is unfinished or because it has been demolished, whether the cause is some enchantment or only a whim, I do not know. The fact remains that it has no walls, no ceilings, no floors: it has nothing that makes it seem a city except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be: a forest of pipes that end in taps, showers, spouts, overflows. Against the sky a lavabo's white stands out, or a bathtub, or some other porcelain, like late fruit still hanging from the boughs. You would think that the plumbers had finished their job and gone away before the bricklayers arrived; or else their hydraulic systems, indestructible, had survived a catastrophe, an earthquake, or the corrosion of termites.
TRADING CITIES: ERSILIA
In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.
From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia's refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.
They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.
Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spider webs of intricate relationships seeking a form.