English Journal #8

8 Dec

In Invisible Citites, Italo Calvino wrties about Marco Polo describing numerous cities to Kublai Kahn that are often contradictory within themselves. Polo will begin to describe the city a certain way, but as his explanation evolves the city does as well. Soon, the original city that Polo began describing can no longer be identified under the shroud of its new form. One example of this is the city, Anastasia. The city’s description begins positively, with explanations and boasting of how it has “concentric canals watering it and kites flying over it,” and rare stones such as “onyx, chrysoprase, and other varieties of chalcedony.” Polo continues to describe the city saying, “I should praise the flesh of the golden pheasant cooked here over fires of seasoned cherry wood and women I have seen bathing in the pool of a garden…” The explorer paints a very positive image of the city, a place where a traveler can see and experiene beauty. However, this explanation quickly changes, and Polo describes the qualities of Anastasia that would rather stay hidden. He states, “But with all this, I would not be telling you the city’s true essence: for while the description of Anastasia awakend desires one at a time only to force you to stifle them…” Polo continues to describe the city as a “treacherous city” that tricks one into believing they are happy there and that thei desires prompted by the city will one day be fulfilled. Marco attempts to explain that no matter how hard the residents of the city work, their work is only producing more to be desired and eventually, “you believe you are enjoying Anastasia wholly when you are only its slave” (Calvino, 12).

The city of Anastasia represents the contradictory binary and dialect that Polo uses in all the city descriptions throughout the novel. The explorer first represents the city with positive dialect that is alluring to Khan and also to the reader of the novel. Although these positive corrolations aren’t allowed to be associated with the city unless the negatives aspects are described as well. From this point in the description, Marco sheds light on the reality that takes place in the city. The reality derives from the city’s people and his observations, and is often more somber and depressing. Whether or not the explorer in the novel truly feels this way about the places he describes is unknown. However, I believe that Polo mixes negativeity with positivity for specific reasons. The first reason for doing this is because Calvino wishes to illustrate that no place is perfect, and no person is as equally happy as another while living in the same location. The second reason is because a visitor’s perspective on a place is often very different from a local citizens’s perspective. This is specifically illustrated in the city of Anastasia when Polo describes how the inhabitants of the city feel as though their every desire is being fulfilled, when Polo views the city as a deathly trap luring one towards slavery while dangling before them their own desires.

Throughout our own lives, contradictory actions, explanations, and events are also present. A specific example of this can be seen in the production of New Balance tennis shoes. The New Balance company claims that they make and produce their shoes within the United States, and therefore supply jobs to hard working Americans. This statement is not regularly heard during this day in age, when so much of the products sold in the United States are made in and shipped over from China. As a result of this, many consumers will go out of their way to support a company, like New Balance, that positively supports America’s economy and the American people. Unfortunatley, although there was a time when New Balance did make all their products in the United States, there are supported accusations that the company has much of shoe manufacturing done overseas, and only the final touches put on the shoe in the United States. However, instead of publicly stating that some of their products are made over seas, they continue to claim that all parts of their tennis shoes are made in America by hardworking Americans.

I know that in the long run New Balance is just another corporate company fighting the battle between producing a product of excellent quality at an affordable rate while still trying to make a profit. Although all business tactics aside, New Balance is being contradictory to they type of company they are trying to be, the type of product they are atempting to make, compared to the actual product consumers are purchasing. My personal experience with New Balance tennis shoes occurred recently when I bought a new pair of walking shoes. I was very excited to be buying a product in which I thought was made in the United States. Just like the citizens of Anastasia felt like their desires were being fulfilled, I felt as though one of my desires was as well. However, not long after the purchase I realized that the specific shoes I had bought were made overseas. This instance particularly reminds me of the city of Anastiasia because like Polo, I at first only viewed the positive aspects of the shoe that I was buying, but examining the situation further I discovered negatives aspects of the shoe, and before long the negativity was all that I could identify with the New Balance company in general. This seems to be theme within the cities that Marco describes. The positive aspects of each city lure him in, but the negative aspects in the city are the reasons that stand out the most.

Each city making up the city of Venice is filled with many different layers. Through Polo’s descriptions of each layer, although at many times contradictory, he provides a true sense of the city’s reality, and sheds light upon subjects that may have otherwise been ignored. The city of Anastiasia has contradictory aspects within it, as does the New Balance company. With these explanations of the contradictions, whether they be positive or negative, an authentic and truthful representation of each identity can be grasped.

 

English Journal #7

1 Dec

Throughout Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo faces many challenges during his adventures that represent themselves as borders to be crossed. These borders come in the form of physical and mental obstacles. One of the most prominent borders that Polo must overcome is the language barrier that he and Kublai Khan share in the beginning of their relationship. As a skilled explorer who is knowledgeable in the art of communication and determined to express his message to the emperor, Polo efficiently crosses this border by speaking instead with hand signs, noises, and actions to Khan. Calvino states, “Newly arrived and totally ignorant of the Levantine languages, Marco Polo could express himself only with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder and of horror, animal barkings or hootings, or with objects he took from his knapsacks,” (21). After mastering this type of communication, Polo continues to cross the border between him and the emperor by learning the Levantine languages.

Beginning this trip inRome, we as travelers and students faced many of the same challenges that Marco Polo encountered. We had to overcome many physical obstacles, like flying on an international plane, traveling on our own during the weekends, identifying landmarks around the city, and adapting not only to the Italian lifestyle but to the language as well. In addition to overcoming these boundaries, we have faced emotional obstacles as well, like mentally adjusting to city life, homesickness, travel insecurities, and fear of the unknown. However, just as Polo crosses the boundaries he encounters along his travels, we crossed our own personal boundaries as well.

There are certain obstacles and barriers that I have found more challenging than others to overcome while on this journey. To cross these barriers I have encountered, I have relied upon help from others as well as my own inner strength, intellect, and courage. One of the most powerful boundaries that I have faced while inItalyis being away from the comforts of home and separated from my family. Before leaving forItaly, I had an exact routine that I followed habitually everyday that involved all of the comforts of my hometown and family. I spent a great deal of time with my family members before I left, and I knew that it would be difficult for me to leave for two months. I felt as though by being away from home I would not only miss my family members as individuals, but I would miss out on their lives as well. My prediction of homesickness proved correct, when around the second week of the trip I began to feel sad and angry as a result of the separation between my family and I. The anxiety I felt due to this separation only grew worse when I was informed that my nephew was being hospitalized for cancer. When I found this out, my heart ached to be home with my family. I wanted to return home that day, but my parents implored me to stay and try to enjoy the time I had inItaly, since there was nothing I could personally do back at home. In order to overcome the anxiety I felt and still feel due to being away from my family during this time, I trust in God and summon strength within myself to push forward and have hope. There are times when this is very difficult, but I am learning that the most difficult obstacles in life are the ones that make you the strongest.

Another powerful boundary that I have had to overcome during this trip is selfishness and ungratefulness. This may not seem like an ordinary obstacle, but it is often easy to forget how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads and food to eat during the day. I found myself forgetting this quite frequently before I came on the trip, and my behavior at times would reflect this ungrateful attitude. After coming toRome, and seeing the many poor and homeless men and women begging on the streets, I came to realize how blessed and fortunate I am to have so many gifts in my life. Being constantly surrounded by men and women who have nothing makes you very grateful for every thing and everyone that makes your life what it is today. This is not always easy for me to do because I question the motives behind the actions of the beggars, and at times their way of life makes me angry and confused. However, they have helped me to cross the great boundary of selfishness while I have been inRome, and they have reminded me of how thankful I should be for not only the obvious things in life, like home, food, and a bed, but for the little things in life as well, like running water, toilets, and clothing. In fact, nothing given in life seems little anymore. There is a reason to be grateful for everything. I am not perfect, so I am sure that at some point I will slip back into the old habit of taking the comforts of my life for granted, but I hope that when that happens I will be reminded of the men and women in Italy, and all around the world, who have far less than I.

During Marco Polo’s journey and time spent with Kublai Khan, he is forced to cross many boundaries, and as a result of crossing these boundaries, he grows in knowledge about the land he has traveled, himself, and others as well. He shares this knowledge with the emperor as he tells him the tales of the invisible cities. Throughout our own journey inItaly, we too have learned a great deal about the places we have traveled, ourselves, and others. Crossing the barriers that represented themselves along the way enabled us to gain this new knowledge. My personal boundaries have helped me gain a better understanding of myself and what I feel is most important in life, such as family, being grateful, and giving to others. When I return home, I hope to share this new knowledge with others as well, just as Polo shared with Khan.

 

English Journal #6

23 Nov

Traveling is a unique experience that requires immense concentration in order to observe one’s surroundings at all times. In Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Marco Polo provides Kublai Khan with highly descriptive explanations about the cities he has explored. The descriptions prove useful to Khan because with the information provided he is able to deduce that while Polo describes many cities, in reality he is only describing one city, which isVenice. The explorer’s in depth explanations of his travels, filled with entertainment and detail, prove useful to the reader of the novel as well. Marco’s detailed explanations of each city enable the reader to mentally imagine the location and to appreciate what encompasses each city.Reading through the novel, certain cities prove to be more compelling than others. In my opinion, perhaps the most compelling cities were those that I could relate to my past experiences and those cities that enabled me to learn.

While each city that Marco Polo describes is different, certain cities in the novel remind me of experiences that I have had inItaly. A specific location that I relate to my personal travels is the city ofZora. Polo describes this city to be off in the distance, but worth visiting because of its size, memorable qualities, and importance. He states, “Zora has the quality of remaining in your memory point by point, in its succession of streets, of houses along the streets, and of doors and windows in the houses, though nothing in them possesses a special beauty or rarity,” (Calvino, 15). This quote alone greatly reminds me of the city ofRome. Upon first arriving inRome, I was astonished by the amount of buildings succeeding each other one after one, the many different streets beckoning to be explored, and the multitude of homes that house the diverse individuals populating the city. After roaming the city ofRomeall day, it is difficult to not think of the images that make up the city. According to Polo, this same effect can also be felt after living in Zora. He states, “The man who knows by heart how Zora is made, if he is unable to sleep at night, can imagine he is walking along the streets and he remembers the order by which the copper clock follows the barber’s striped awning, then the fountains with the nine jets, the astronomer’s glass tower…” (15). Zoro is described as a city which entertains the mind, fascinates the senses, and remains to be forgotten among its visitors.Romeis also described in this way among the Italians who live here and the tourists visiting. The city ofRomecontains so many historical sites and landmarks, that just like Zoro’s “fountains with the nine jets,” and the “astronomer’s glass tower,” it too has features that cannot be forgotten. Marco Polo also states about Zoro, “the world’s most learned men are those who have memorized Zora,” (16). This aspect of Zoro reminds me of my experiences inRome, because it requires a great amount of knowledge and competence in order to live and function in a large city such asRome. The people ofRomenot only know how to move around the city, but they are also aware of the city’s history and meaning. To me, this makes them very “learned” and educated. The city ofZorois one of my favorite cities because it relates to the life I have been living since I arrived inRomein the beginning of October. Polo explains Zoro as if he is explaining Rome.

Another city in the novel that I find not only enjoyable but relatable as well is the city of Despina. Out of all the cities Polo describes, Despina reminds me the most ofVenice. The explorer describes the city as a place to find sustenance and company after a long journey. He states, “He thinks of a ship; he knows it is a city, but he thinks of it as a vessel that will take him away from the desert…and he thinks of all the ports, the foreign merchandise the cranes unload on the docks, the taverns where crews of different flags break bottles over one another’s heads,” (17). In this quote, Polo describes Despina as a “vessel” that promises to carry a weary traveler to the comforts that he has been deprived of on his journey. In Despina, the city’s people thrive around the water which is the source of their food and income. Looking back on our trip toVenice, I am able to see how perfectly Polo represents the city through the description of Despina. The lives of Venetians are centered upon the sea, and within the city the goods are bountiful because they are able to rely on their own recourses. Despina is one of my favorite cities within the novel because its description accurately, imaginatively, metaphorically, and enthusiastically explains the city ofVenice. Through this detailed description, the reader is able to grasp the essence of the lifestyle and beauty found in the city ofVenice.

The last of my favorite cities in the novel is one that inspires me to have an open mind about cultural lifestyles different from my own, and to also continue learning as I travel. As I read about the city ofEsmeralda, I am intrigued and motivated to investigate the unknown. In Esmeralda, “the inhabitants are spared the boredom of following the same streets every day…each inhabitant can enjoy every day the pleasure of a new itinerary to reach the same places. The most fixed and calm lives in Esmeralda are spent without any repetition,” (88). This quote is very inspiring. I find it fascinating that the people of the city avoid repetition in their lives, and take different routes daily even though the destination remains the same. As human beings, we are creatures of habit, and we cling to repetition in order to feel safe and confident. Very rarely do people change their routine on a daily basis, or avoid taking the same path twice. This explanation of the city motivates me to step outside of the normal “box” that is my routine when I return home. Now as an experienced traveler, I have discovered how important it is to have an open mind about different lifestyles in other cultures. Through this openness, I become educated about a way of life different from my own, like that in Esmeralda.

Each city in the novel is different but at the same time they share important qualities that unite it as one city ofVenice. The cities I chose as my favorite locations allowed me to appreciate the experiences that I have already had during my travels and they also inspired me to look forward to the future and the many journeys life holds.

Art Journal #6

20 Nov

During our time spent in Rome, we have been discovering art, seeking out art, celebrating art, criticizing art, and defining art. Learning about this subject is a task and a blessing, for discovering art is an endless journey but each new discovery brings with it a sense of satisfaction and beauty. The definition of art is ever changing, and each week a new piece, a new food, and a new part of Italian culture presents itself, and we grow to appreciate and enjoy that type of art.

This past week, we were exposed to a type of art that takes its form in a specific lifestyle. This is the art of simple living. On Wednesday and Thursday we were exposed to this lifestyle during our visit to St. Benedict Monastery and St. Scolastica Monastery. Our time spent at these monasteries was focused on relaxation, self reflection, enjoying the surrounding nature, and learning about St. Benedict and the monks that serve in the Benedictine Order. While taking personal time to meditate and also spending a morning in the life of a monk, I grew to appreciate the art of simple living, and what exactly this art entails.

The art of simple living began before the life of Jesus Christ. Its history dates back to the days of Moses, and continues on in the lives of the individuals after him. Prophets like Moses wanted to break away from the busy, hectic, and secular life they were living. They felt called by God to shed the material weight being born on their shoulders, and spread God’s message throughout their land. Hundreds of years later, Jesus Christ lived a life of complete simplicity. He did not own any personal goods, and he lived not only to serve others but to promote a peaceful way of life. The simple life continues after Christ’s death with men like St. Francis ofAssisiand St. Benedict. These men literally gave up all of their earthly possessions and comforts in order to live a simple life with few distractions and temptations steering them away from God. St. Francis ran away from home in order to divorce himself from the modern world, and St. Benedict lived in a cave for three years so he could contemplate God’s will. In the modern world there have been men and women who have lived the life of simplicity as well. For example, Mother Theresa lived a complete life of simplicity by giving to the poor and allowing very little luxuries to be present in her daily routine. Mahatma Gandhi, a spiritual leader and activist in the Hindu faith, is another person who chose to practice the art of simple living by living as a spiritual guide for his country. These men and women are great examples of how beautiful the art of simple living can be. Through their material sacrifices, they discovered that there is more to life than the clothing one wears, the possessions one owns, or the amount of money one has. Instead, there is a depth and meaning to the world that is meant to be shared and experienced.

I personally view living simplistically as an art form because this type of life requires practice, dedication, and often hard work. It is not easy to give up all of one’s possessions, to spend hours a day either reflecting, praying, or meditating, and to perform physical labor during the day as well. Many of the people who live this life have chosen it by their own will, however staying true to this way of life requires strength and determination. When we first arrived at the monastery, my brain was racing with a list of things to do once I got back to campus. I wanted to relax during the time we had away from the busyness of the city and the requirements of school, but I felt as though I would be unable to fully rest and meditate. Eventually, I physically forced myself to enjoy the scenery, the serenity, and the peacefulness at the monastery, by lying down in the tall grass underneath the olive trees. Doing this was very difficult at first because I am used to constantly moving and not resting often. For me to set aside a large period of time to meditate and pray daily, whether it be at morning prayer, mass, or lying underneath olive trees, would be very difficult. I imagine that for the monks at St. Benedicts and St. Scolastica, this was difficult for them at first also.

The most important reason why the simplistic life is a form of art is because its end result produces fantastic beauty. It can be seen in the prayers that the monks say for others during Mass, the service that is given to the poor and needy, and the positive impact that the people living this life make in the world. There is a reason that the people who practice this simplistic life are remembered throughout all of history. Their lives will hopefully inspire those living today to embrace our God given gifts here on Earth, whether it be for a few hours, a few days, or a lifetime.

Annotated Bibliography #4

17 Nov

Abby: Piazza Navona

Imagine a location that is adorned with beautiful intricate statues, large fountains that provide large streams of water into a basin, cobble stone roads, luxurious shops and caffes, painters and musicians practicing their art in the street, beautiful hidden churches, and a bustle of people exploring all that this location has to offer. This place is thesquareofPiazza Navona, one of the most famous and enjoyable squares in all ofRome. The square is very open, which allows an enormous amount of sunlight to shine through on sunny days, making the visit to the square enjoyable for all travelers. It is large enough that even on a very busy day, the square never feels over crowded because there is a great deal of room to move around and find one’s own space. All around the square there are shops that entice visitors to bemuse the stores and acquire unique Italian goods for their own. Perhaps the most striking aspects of the square are the statues and fountains by the genius sculptor, Bernini. There are three of these fantastic fountains spread out through the middle of the square, and they are marvelous to see. Bernini had the talent to make the subjects of his sculptures look life like and very realistic. It is almost as they are actually moving, and they are not made of stone, but are real human beings. Also included in Piazza Navona, is an Italian authenticity that cannot be faked. The combination of the architectural style of the shops, what the shops have to offer, the Bernini fountains, and the excitement of the people there, provide an “Italian atmosphere” filled with fun, exploration, and amusement.

Since Piazza Navona offers so many great ideals that are found in Italy, the square would be a fantastic place to shoot one or two scenes of Sex and the City Three. The Piazza appeals to the positive and natural elements that are found in Rome, which is what the third party is striving to achieve in their movie location. The square offers shopping, which is necessary for four women who love to spend hours and money shopping for items in which to add to their collection of expensive possessions. The stores in the Piazza also provide an excellent example to viewers of the many diverse, unique, and high quality merchandise that can be found in Rome. Piazza Navona not only provides material satisfaction, but it also provides spiritual and artistic satisfaction as well, which can be seen in the many churches around the square and the fountains by Bernini. This will satisfy the third party because they are looking for a location that will show the positive and important aspects of Italy all in one. Piazza Navona does this because it showcases Rome’s high devotion to the Catholic Religion, but also the city’s appreciation and preservation of art. The atmosphere that is present in the square is always filled with excitement, due to the many people and the live bands that frequently play there. As a result of this, the Piazza proves that Rome is an enjoyable place to visit and live, and that the people in Rome are lively and welcoming. This will definitely benefit not only the third party, but also the movie as a whole. Piazza Navona is a beautiful location, and I could see a scene being shot there that shows the women of Sex and the City coming to the beautiful realization that they are inRome,Italy, a city filled with fun and possibilities.

Jamie:

The Florentine Markets

            If there is one thing (other than the art museums, of course) that I will always remember about Florence, it is the shopping experience.  Not the actually “shopping” itself, as the markets did not seem to sell anything extraordinary, but the experience of walking through these markets and interacting with the marketers.  The San Lorenzo Market was unlike anything I have ever seen before.  The roads surrounding the church were strictly for pedestrians, and along each side there were many merchant stalls.  A few of the merchants also had their own stores right behind the stalls.  Any time that I expressed any sort of interest in something that was for sale, I’d quickly be approached and asked if I wanted it.  Usually they would tell me the price, then say a price one euro less and tell me that it was a special discount.  Often times I could convince them to lower the price even further than that!  What really struck me about many of the leather merchants was how obvious it was that they were family-owned. The first leather jacket store that I went to was owned by a father and his son, and the second one a mother and her son.  Similar stores are hard to find in America, it was very refreshing to see.  Very close to the San Lorenzo Market is the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s version of Cleveland’s West Side Market or Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The large building is filled with many stalls selling food items.  One can find anything there from pistachios, to fresh apples and even pig brains!  The best part of the market however was the friendliness of the people working there.  They were all more than happy to help explain to me what things were, and also to help me out with my Italian.  Everyone inside the market seemed to genuinely enjoy their careers!

            I believe that the markets in Florence would be a wonderful place to film Sex and The City 3 because it is a beautiful example of the Italian spirit. It will be plain for the moviegoers to see that the people there care about their jobs and their families.  It’s very different than the American consumer culture, as the salespeople seem just as interested in helping you find something that you actually want instead of making a sale just for the sake of money.    

Art Journal #5

15 Nov

InItaly, we have had the opportunity to see many ancient ruins that are historical representations of historicalRome. Unfortunately, when we see these ancient ruins it is very difficult to imagine what the ruins looked like in their original form, when they were still standing during ancient times. However, this week, we had the opportunity to experience what one specific ancient ruin may have looked like originally, when we visited Cinecitta. At Cinecitta, we saw what I consider to be an art form that preserves important history. This art form is the reproduction of the Roman Forum.

The Roman Forum reproduction was built for the set of the HBO series, “Rome.” The actual buildings included in the set match what was in the original forum, like thetempleofVenus, the state building, and side streets. The structures are not made of stone or marble, but they are made of a thick plastic form that resembles actual building materials. The reproductions are painted dramatic colors, like red, green, and orange. The colors of these buildings are the closest representation of what the Roman Forum may have looked like in its original form. The size of the set was very large, and it appeared to have many alley ways and side streets that could be explored. Each building was proportionate to the size of the set, and seemed to structurally fit within its boundaries. Upon first entering the set, you feel as though you are in the actual Roman Forum because all of the buildings, arches, and remaining structures are not only fit to scale, but structurally and artistically styled to fit within the ancient Roman time period.

The set of the Roman Forum is important for one main reason, which is to provide an example of what exactly the ancient ruins resembled originally. Thousands of people visitRomeeveryday, tour the Forum, among many other ruins, and marvel in the history that these sights contain. However for a person who knows little about life in ancientRome, it proves difficult to truly appreciate what exactly the ruins are representing. In this case, in the Forum, there is only a small amount of actual building structure left over that can be identified as a former piece of architecture. As a result of this, it becomes easy to grow confused about what you are actually seeing while inside the Forum grounds. For this reason, the Roman Forum set in Cinecitta proves to be a great learning experience and a fantastic example of what structures looked like not only in the Forum, but in the whole of ancientRome. This set is such a positive influence in this way, that children attending school inRomewere allowed to have class at Cinecitta and experience the reproduction of the Roman Forum.  When visiting the set, one is able to gain knowledge about architectural styles and have a close picture of how the Forum looked before it was destroyed.

In years to come, maintaining and preserving the reproduction of the Roman Forum in Cinecitta would benefitItaly, because visitors and citizens of the country would be able to see first hand the architectural style of ancientRome. This set was a unique and powerful representation of the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, that I am sure only hinted at the true beauty of the original buildings.

English Journal #5

15 Nov

 

Each individual person has their own mind, and their own way of thinking. Therefore, each person understands others and communicates with people in a different way. Those that are deaf must interact with each on many different levels, since they are not able to communicate verbally. Instead they use hand signs and facial expressions to convey what they are thinking. Different levels of communication and understanding also arise among the hearing. One reason for this is because every individual processes information differently and clings to information that he or she finds most interesting. Within both types of communication, there are challenges to overcome. Challenges also arise in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. In the novel, Kublai Khan and Marco Polo at first struggle to communicate, but as time passes and their relationship grows, the two men begin to connect and understand each other on many levels.

One of the simplest ways that Khan and Polo connect is on a superficial level that relies solely on verbal speech.  Khan is completely enthralled by Polo from the very beginning of their relationship, and pays close attention to his descriptions of the cities in which he has ventured. The novel states, “Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his,” (Calvino, 5). Here, it is described how Khan is baffled by Polo and unsure if he speaks the truth, but because of the way Polo verbally communicates, Khan intently listens, with the hope of believing him. This quote exemplifies a connection that is verbally being made between the two men. On the most ordinary level of communication, speech, Khan and Polo connect and understand one another. The emperor listens while the explorer relives and explains his travels.

Another connection made through conversation among the men, is a personal connection. Through Polo’s time explaining individual cities and adventures to Khan, he begins to learn the ways in which the emperor understands the tales he relates during their meetings, and what exactly he needs told in order to completely imagine the city. Polo states, “In vain, great-hearted Kublai, shall I attempt to describe Zaira, city of high bastions. I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stair-ways, and the degree of the arcades’ curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing,” (10). This quote illustrates a personal connection between the two men because Polo realizes that Khan will not be able to fully grasp the city being described just by physical explanations. Instead, the emperor must be told of the action that takes place within the city walls. Marco Polo connects with Khan because he understands the explanations needed to inspire him, and therefore he understands the emperor. The two men connect on a personal level mentally, but also emotionally as well. Marco can read Khan’s attitudes, and with this reading he is able to present information differently to him. The novel states, “The Venetian knew that when Kublai became vexed with him, the emperor wanted to follow more clearly a private train of thought; so Marco’s answers and objections took their place in a discourse already proceeding on its own, in the Great Khan’s head,” (27). This quote illustrates how Marco understands the emperor’s attitudes and feelings during their communications. Through this communication, the two men connect on a personal level.

Lastly, Polo and the Great Khan also connect on a level of trust with one another. This can be seen in the way that the two men communicate. Before Marco could speak the language of the empire, he would use physical actions and hand signs in order to speak with the emperor. The novel states, “Newly arrived and totally ignorant of the Levantine languages, Marco Polo could express himself only with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder and of horror, animal barkings or hootings, or with objects he took from his knapsacks,” (21). A connection is made because between the two men when Marco communicates in this way, because Khan understands him. It states about Marco’s communication, “But, obscure or obvious as it might be, everything Marco displayed had the power of emblems, which once seen, cannot be forgotten or confused,” (22). The motions and signs that Polo would use were embedded in Khan’s mind, and even after Marco learned the language, the emperor still built each new piece of information off of the original sign that Polo gave for it (22). This illustrates trust between the two men because even though there was a language barrier between Khan and Polo, the emperor still trusted the traveler to do his best to communicate and provide accurate, detailed information.

Just as everyone communicates differently and connects on different levels, so do Khan and Polo in Invisible Cities. Throughout the novel the men learn to understand each other on different levels, and through their forms of communication, they make verbal, personal, and trusting connections.