Excerpt 4

“The other ambassadors warn me of famines, extortions, conspiracies, or else they inform me of newly discovered turquoise mines, advantageous prices in marten furs, suggestions for supplying damascened blades. And you?” the Great Khan asked Polo, “you return from lands equally distant and you can tell me only thoughts that come to a man who sits on his doorstep at evening to enjoy the cool air. What is the use, then, of all your traveling?”

Cities & Desire . 4

In the centre of Fedora, that grey stone metropolis, stands a metal building with a crystal globe in every room. Looking into each globe, you see a blue city, the model of a different Fedora. These are the forms the city could have taken if, for one reason or another, it had not become what we see today. In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined in a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became a toy in a glass globe.

The building with the globes is now Fedora’s museum: every inhabitant visits it, choses the city that corresponds to his desires, contemplates it, imagining his reflection in the waters of the canal (if it had not been dried up), the view from the high canopied box along the avenue reserved for elephants (now banished from the cities), the fun of sliding down the spiral, twisting minaret (which never found a pedestal from which to rise).

On the map of your empire, O Great Khan, there must be room for both the big, stone Fedora and the little Fedoras in glass globes. Not because they all all equally real, but because all are only assumptions. The one contains what is accepted as necessary when it is not yet so; the others, what is imagined as possible and, a moment later,is possible no longer.

Chapter 2.2 - p32

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