Excerpt 2

Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited in his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his.

Cities & Desire . 1

There are two ways of describing the city of Dorothea: you can say that four aluminium towers rise from its walls flanking seven gates with spring operated drawbridges that span the moat whose water feeds four green canals which cross the city, dividing it into nine quarters, each with three hundred houses and nine hundred chimneys. And bearing in mind that the nubile girls of each quarter marry youths of other quarters and their parents exchange the goods that each family holds in monopoly - bergamot, sturgeon roe, astrolabes, amethysts - you can then work from these facts until you learn everything you wish about the city in the past present and future. Or else you can say, like the camel driver that took me there:”I arrived here in my first youth, one morning, many people were hurrying along the streets towards the market, the woman had fine teeth and looked you straight in the eye, three soldiers on a platform played the trumpet, and all around wheels turned and coloured banners fluttered in the wind. Before then I had known only the desert and the caravan routes; but now I know this path is only one of the many that opened before me on that morning in Dorothea.

Chapter 1.3 - p9

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