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Saturday, June 4, 2011

INVISIBLE CITIES XIII -- chapter 2, ..... 1

Kublai Khan
  1. Pattern would hold that the opening sequence of the chapter two holds a question to which the final lines of the chapters pose an answer.  What is/are the question/s?
  2. When I first read this, I didn't get it very well.  The possibility that Kublai Khan and Marco Polo weren't even talking, but only imagining to talk made me wonder if they were both present at all.  Was Marco Polo, alone on some journey of his, imagining what it might be like to be explorer and official reporter to someone like The Great Khan?  From your perspective, what do you think?  I believe this makes sense on my second pass, but only maybe.  Considering the issues of nostalgia and memory, and past, present, and future, what is, at the very least, affecting, and at the most heavily tinting or obscuring, all of Polo's reports?
  3. "You advance always with your head turned back?" and "Is what you see always behind you?" thus "He must go to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him": Is it possible to begin to gain access to a new culture--or a new anything--without using as initial framework/schema what you already know?  So no matter how far you travel, you ... what?  Experience the new only in context of the old?  And is this a reiteration of the same issue regarding two people of different languages and cultures talking to each other?
  4. And what does the final line mean: "The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have"?  This echoes, I think (thoughts?), the last exchange between the men from the close of chapter one.  What's the connection?
  5. Finally, back to the first paragraph here, what is the value Kublai Khan places on Polo's reports?  He doesn't want from him the information on taxes and politics and trade and treasure.


  1. 1. What could life have been like? What choices do we make that leads to one life over another?
    2. Polo's own experiences versus those of Khan's, right? Also, it occurred to me that these two could just represent two sides of one person. I would have to flesh that out a bit more, I guess. Perhaps a conquering/exploring split? But how would that relate to memory/imagination?
    3. It's only possible as a baby, I think. Otherwise, you'll forever be jaded by your past.
    4. I think that the connection is an understanding of the vastness of the universe and the relative smallness you are as part of it. Your experiences and interpretations of events are all you really have.
    5. Reflection, maybe?

  2. 1. What is Polo really describing?
    2. I'm pretty sure it's two people, because we're not seeing any of the conquering, just the descriptions of the cities conquered.
    5. I wonder if Kablai re-experiences/rediscovers his own past through Polo pantomimed descriptions.


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