Monday, September 7, 2009

From the long overdue (re)readings (III)

You advance for hours and it is not clear to you whether you are already in the city's midst or still outside it. Like a lake with low shores lost in swamps, so Penthesilea spreads for miles around, a soupy city diluted in the plain; pale buildings back to back in mangy fields, among plank fences and corrugated-iron sheds. Every now and then at the edges of the street a cluster of constructions with shallow facades, very tall or very low, like a snaggle-toothed comb, seems to indicate that from there the city's texture will thicken. But you continue and you find instead other vague spaces, then a rusty suburb of workshops and warehouses, a cemetery, a carnival with a Ferris wheel, a shambles; you start down a street of scrawny shops which fades amid patches of leprous countryside.

If you ask the people you meet, "Where is Penthesilea?" they make a broad gesture which may mean "Here," or else "Farther on," or "All around you," or even "In the opposite direction."

(Italo Calvino, 'Continuous Cities 5,' Invisible Cities, trans. William Weaver. Harcourt, 1974. 156-57.)

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