13/01 -2012

Newly arrived and totally ignorant of the Levantine languages, Marco Polo could express himself only with gestures, leapes, cries of wonder and of horror, animal barkings or hootings, or with objects he took from his knapsacks - ostrich plumes, pea-shooters, quartzes - which he arranged in front of him like chessmen. Returning from the missions on which Kublai sent him, the ingenious foreigner improvised pantomimes that the sovereign had to interpret: on city was depicted by the leap of a fish escaping the cormorant's beak to fall into a net; another city by a naked man running through fire unscorched; a third by a skull, its teeth green with mold, clenching a round white pearl. The great Khan deciphered the signs, but the connection between them and the places visited remained uncertain; he never knew whether Marco wished to enact an adventure that had befallen him on his journey, an exploit of the city's founder, the prophecy of an astrologer, a rebus or a charade to indicate a name. But, obscure or obvoius as it might be, everything Marco displayed had the powers of emblems, which, once seen, cannot be forgotten or confused. In the Khan's mind the empire was reflected in a desert of labile and interchangeable data, like grains of sand, from which there appeared, for each city and province, the figure evoked by the Ventians logogriphs.

-Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

Och så var det det där med att inte enbart plocka ut författarnas obskyra böcker om städer...

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