Books and the Invisible City

Invisible cities

I am not sure if I can sufficiently explain my fascination with Calvino’s Invisible Cities and the important role it has come to play in my life. I cannot recall how I discovered it; when and where I bought it or on whose recommendation. It’s as if it has always been in my life which, I suppose, is the exact reason why I can’t write about it. All I know is that over the years it has become more than a book: it has become my dictionary; my encyclopedia of cities; my paper flat globe of the world; my book of dreams; my pain-killer.

I go back to it regularly. More so in recent months as my own invisible city, Athens, is rapidly changing into something I cannot even begin to recognise. It is confusing yet empowering to be a witness to a city’s transformation; to be part of its history; to live on the cusp of events. It disorients and scares you but at the same time it forces you to be part of that transformation in any way you can. For better or worse. For better, hopefully.

For the time being Athens’ transformation is enshrouded in fog. It’s new face is expressionless and expectant; a near blank canvas. As I am writing this, I feel safe in the knowledge that authors, poets and artists are trying to fill it in. It is one of the noblest ways of protest I can think of. One of the best weapons against the vagaries of history and time. Which brings me back to the reason behind this blog, the inspiration behind the Ersilia Literary Agency in general. While we can’t change the course of history individually, we can try and be part of it in the best possible way we can. We can collectively try to fill in the blank canvas of Athens’ future -and by extension Europe and the world’s- with hope, literature, art and goodness.

As Italo Calvino said: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognise who and what, in the midst of the inferno, is not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”