Invisible Cities

Italo Calvino

Illustrated by Dave McKean

Introduced by Jeanette Winterson

Translated by William Weaver

Italo Calvino’s beguiling and mysterious Invisible Cities defies explanation. Dave McKean’s rich visuals illustrate the wondrous and impossible urban landscapes in a Folio edition that is introduced by Jeanette Winterson. 

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‘Instead of pretending to talk about real life, Calvino went wildly into the life of the imagination. He discovered that he did not need to write directly about the world he lived in in order to mirror it.’
  1. Jeanette Winterson

 In Invisible Cities, Calvino mirrors reality in fantastical prose through imagined conversations between the explorer Marco Polo and Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. He conjures imaginary places gradually revealed to be the different quarters of ancient and modern Venice. Dave McKean was an immediate choice to capture the rich visuals of Calvino’s landscapes and abstract concepts in ten intricate colour illustrations, plus 27 integrated illustrations. Stunning cover visuals evoke labyrinthine fantastical cities unspooling from the minds of the narrators.

Gorgeous, printed marbled endpapers give the feel of a prized find in an ancient market. This unique and wonderful oddity weaves together prose, poetry and philosophy, provoking questions about the complex nature of writing’s limitations alongside the impossible and beguiling spaces the novel’s characters inhabit. Jeanette Winterson’s insightful introduction encourages the reader to explore those questions further, giving us a valuable glimpse into Calvino’s world, writing process and evolution. Calvino’s words were just waiting for their perfect match and found them in this stunning Folio edition.

Quarter-bound in textured paper with paper case sides

Gold and blind blocking on spine

Gold rules on quarter binding

Set in LTC Italian Old Style

184 pages with 10 full-page colour illustrations and 27 integrated illustrations

Printed 4-colour throughout

Printed endpapers

Slipcase covered in textured paper blocked with gold foil

8˝ x 5¼˝

‘Every micro-story stands alone as a strange and troubling miniature world. Read together, these stories become both atlas and encounter.’
  1. Jeanette Winterson

Italo Calvino was one of Italy's most celebrated writers and a vital figure in postmodern literature. He wove complex structures with his prose, inviting readers to engage deeply with the explored concepts and metaphors. 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of Calvino’s birth, a fitting time to celebrate the intricate skill of his writing. He brings magical realism to the masses through the urban landscapes of Invisible Cities. These imagined landscapes are vividly brought to life through Dave McKean’s stunning and equally complex illustrations. Fans of Borges, Nabokov, Kafka and even Murakami will find themselves captivated by this treasure trove of a book. A visual treat as well as a literary one, this is a perfect gift for the philosophers and thinkers in your life, which will have the reader coming back to it again and again.

About Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best-known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–9), the Cosmicomics short stories collection (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972; Folio 2023) and If on a winter’s night a traveller (1979). Calvino was originally engaged by his publisher, Einaudi, to select and retell stories from the Italian oral tradition to demonstrate Italy’s wealth of folk and fairy tales compared with the better-known traditions of Northern Europe. This work was published in 1956 as Fiabe italiane (Italian Folktales, Folio 2019), and it established Calvino as a worthy rival to the monumental Brothers Grimm, Perrault, et al. Calvino was the most translated contemporary Italian writer at the time of his death in 1985.

About Dave McKean

Dave McKean has released 60 books as an illustrator, author, photographer and designer, including Cages (1990–6, winner of two Harvey Awards, the Ignatz Award, La Pantera Award, and the Alph-Art Award), Pictures That Tick (2009, V&A Illustrated Book of the Year), and Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash (2016, a 14–18 NOW Foundation/Imperial War Museum/LICAF commission). He has collaborated with Neil Gaiman (Sandman, 1989–97; Coraline, 2002), John Cale (What’s Welsh for Zen, 1998; Sedition and Alchemy, 2003), David Almond (The Savage, 2008), Richard Dawkins (The Magic of Reality, 2011), Heston Blumenthal (as Director of Story at The Fat Duck), and others. He has worked in theatre, galleries, and the music industry, and has written and directed three feature films: MirrorMask (2005), The Gospel of Us (2012, winner of two Cymru BAFTAs), and Luna (2014, winner of the Raindance Award for Best Picture, BIFA). For the Folio Society he has illustrated Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2017), Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (2018), Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (2022), Arkady & Boris Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic (2023) and Invisible Cities (2023).

About Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson is the author of ten novels, including Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (1985), The Passion (1987) and Sexing the Cherry (1989); a book of short stories, The World and Other Places (1988); a collection of essays, Art Objects (1995); and a memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011), as well as many other works, including children’s books, screenplays and articles. Her writing has won the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, the E. M. Forster Award and the Prix d’Argent at the Cannes Film Festival.


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