Marco Polo: The Explorer in Term Paper

Total Length: 1977 words ( 7 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 2

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This suggests that Polo feels an obligation to tell his readers, with whom he shares a common sympathy and culture, about the strangeness and wonders of the Orient, prioritizing the strange above the ordinary. Also it implies that these tales seem strange and magic on their surfaces. This hyperawareness of strangeness, in contrast with making strangeness have a veneer of normalcy when talking about different people and places to the 'other' Khan, is obviously not shared with the Marco Polo of Invisible Cities.

The Calvino cities seem to hover in thin air, normal or not, as Polo weaves his web of stories that may or may not be true. There is no urgent 'must' of convincing the reader or Kublai Khan, rather the cities are conjured up through the genius of the author, and the artful nature of storytelling, although Marco Polo's memory is not trustworthy even while "things can be discerned better at a distance" in time as well as in space (Calvino 98). Memory, time, alternative spaces, all are equally foreign countries.

The main rhetorical joining strategy in Calvino is merely the use of the frame tale, with no sense of chronology or linear narration or urgency for telling the stories. Despite Polo's protest, the stories about the cities themselves are fairly disconnected and disparate. Calvino's Polo catalogues the cities under different headings, but there is no mention about the struggle to get to the city, or an attempt to locate the city in a specific country.
In fact, the structure of the work seems to eschew such temporal grounding. The only grounding is the fairly theoretical debates about the nature of truth between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo, dispersed between descriptions of the different locations.

Even the Kublai Khan of Calvino regards what transpires with a healthy postmodern skepticism, although for his own entertainment, if not for information, he listens to what Polo says and he muses about his own life. The possibly false may have some value, and the truth may be found within false tales of cities. When Khan asks why Polo does not mention Venice, Polo shrugs and says that all cities make him think of Venice, thus Venice is present in all of his recognitions.

This instability of reality highlights Khan and Polo pretend to some extent that the cities are 'real' as when Khan says he will describe some cities himself and Polo will tell him if the cities are in fact real. Such a plasticity of truth would have been unacceptable in the tone of Polo's true chronicles. But given the historical questioning of the facts of Polo's actual narrative, Calvino's work may actually highlight the greater truth -- that when confronting the other, our memories and our eyes both cannot be believed.

Works Cited

Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,….....

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