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"The city of Sophronia is made up of two half-cities."-Invisible Cities, pg. 63
Sophronia's daily existence is marked by ferris wheels, cotton candy, rollercoasters, and funnel cakes, while once a year a second city of marble, buildings, and monuments takes it roots in this carnival-esque place. The inhabitants of Sophronia always wait in anticipation for the first signs of this annual event, and they watch in awe as the workmen reassemble the familiar structures of the vagrant city. The arrival of the second city, Sophronia's other half, is as certain as the coming of spring after winter, and little changes from year to year, except perhaps for the introduction of a new store or bank into the city's infrastructure. Part of what makes this annual event so special is its familiarity, no matter how old the person is or how many times in their lives they have seen the ephemeral city, it is a place that always stirs up memories and beckons one's thoughts to another time and place. The second city's residency is in of itself a way of measuring the passing of time, like any other holiday that arrives with dogged frequency. It is Sophronia's partner and soulmate, and it has returned every year and always will.
Without the second city, the first city of Sophronia does not live a complete existence, much like two lovers separated by time and distance, it grieves on the day when the workmen come to dismantle the moveable structures. Sophronia's hospitals, schools, government buildings, monuments commemorating the victorious dead, the factories and slaughterhouses all take leave with the promise of a return next year. The second city then begins its journey to another incomplete city, which it occupies for some measure of time, before moving on to the next and leaving another heartbroken city in its wake. Though half-Sophronia has the potential to be a place of endless amusements and laughter, its occupants count the days before they are again reunited with their second half.
Calvino includes the description of this city under the heading "Thin Cities" but I would argue that it is just as accurate to call it a "City of Desire" as the citizens of Sophronia spend most of their time longing for days past when they were united with their second half, while waiting with a collective bated breath for its return. Can the first half of Sophronia with its large crowds, carnival infrastructure, and social interactions be called a city on its own? Or does it need its second half, its administrative buildings, its financial districts, its schools and workhouses? The first half of Sophronia is a place rich in memories and nostalgia, with its inhabitants caught between the Sophronia that was, and what it will be in the future. As Marco Polo so eloquently recounts to Kublai Khan, "Here remains the half-Sophronia of the shooting-galleries and the carousels, the shout suspended from the cart of the headlong roller coaster, and it begins to count the months, the days it must wait before the caravan returns and complete life can begin again." The first half of Sophronia appears static and immobile, perhaps deceased, a sharp contrast to its lively description, as it waits for its austere buildings and cold marble statues to return and resurrect it anew.
So come visit Sophronia, a city that will challenge your views on what is permanent and what is transient, and will stir your deepest memories and tug at your heart, this most sentimental of cities!
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Sophronians going about their daily lives
"One of the half-cities is permanent, while the other is temporary, and when the period of its sojourn is over, they uproot it, dismantle it, and take it off, transplanting it to the vacant lots of another half-city." Invisible Cities, pg. 63-
The Annual Sophronia City Fair October 1st-31st
Pictures from last year's fair
Come see the banks, monuments, government buildings, factories, and schools of Sophronia's other half before it moves on to the next half-city!
Sophronians watching the annual dismantling