These cities are apparitions -- an architecture of pure quality -- and they are a triumph of comprehension in a post-modern world. Since Cosmicomics, his rather Aquarian history of the universe, Calvino has been working diligently toward that end: to create a mode of fiction that fully incorporates structuralist and semiological ideas; that can transpose something human to the awful dimensionless spaces they imply; that could, if it had to, stand in affirmation through the climax of planetary culture. If this sounds a bit extreme, it comes in response to a conceptual revolution at least as drastic as that presented by Freud in the '30's; and backed up as it is by so many manifest signs of dissolution it may be only slightly anticipating a general state of mind. The assumption of the invisible cities is that we will, no matter what, always have recognitions to share in common and that they may be essential ones. The setting is elegaic in its unworldliness and fineness. Kublai Khan is old now and will never see all the cities compassed by his empire. It is given to Marco Polo to describe them; but because the time is short, and there are so many cities, he must distill from each one the quality that makes it itself and no other. The conversation begins at the level of poetry -- with emblems, gestures and finally images -- and as their understanding ripens, Marco and the Khan begin to enact the slow, equally essential phases of habituation and exhausted wonder. Their communication still represents a leap of faith equal surely to any jump God-ward; only this time it is a social faith in the continued correspondence of our private universes and the prospect of enduring community.