Appropriated for Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities
Cities and eyes 1
built Valdrada on the shores of a lake, with houses all verandas one above the
other, and high streets whose railed parapets look out over the water. Thus the
traveler, arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other
reflected, upside down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that the
other Valdrada does not repeat, because the city was so constructed that its
every point would be reflected in its mirror, and the Valdrada down in the
water contains not only all flutings and juttings of the facades that rise
above the lake, but also the rooms’ interiors with ceilings and floors, the
perspective of halls, the mirrors of wardrobes.
inhabitants know that each of their actions is, at once that action and its
mirror-image, which possesses the special dignity of images, and this awareness
prevents them from succumbing for a single moment to chance and forgetfulness.
Even when lovers twist their naked bodies, skin against skin, seeking the
position that will give one the most pleasure in the other, even the murderers
plunge the knife into the black veins of the neck and more clotted blood pours
out the more they press the blade that slips between tendons, it is not so much
their copulating or murdering that matters as the copulating and murdering of
images, limpid and cold in the mirror.
At times the
mirror increases a thing’s value, at times denies it. Not everything that seems
valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities
are not equal, because nothing that exists or happen in Valdrada is
symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered, from the mirror, by a face and
gesture inverted, point by point. The two Valdradas live for each other, their
eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them.