British Romanticism and Italian Culture: Translating, Reviewing, Rewriting. Ed. Laura Bandiera and Diego Saglia (Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft, 92).
In his introduction to The Fatal Gift of Beauty, Manfred Pfister points out that each description or definition of the other culture implies a self-description or self-definition. [ ] Each heterostereotype has its reverse in an autostereotype, and it is the autostereotype that has functional priority. A culture defines itself by defining other cultures; the self defines itself by defining the other. It is therefore most appropriate for Pfister to remind the reader of Marco Polos answer to the Kublai Khan in Calvinos novel Invisible Cities. The Khan asks Marco Polo why during their conversations he spoke only of exotic, mysterious cities on the margins of the Chinese empire, and never about Venice, his far-away hometown. The Italian traveler answers: And about what else, do you think, have I been talking to you? [ ] Every time I describe a city I say something about Venice. Marco Polos answer unveils the challenging task of the definition of the other and its relation to the self. It is a two-way and yet at the same time an indirect and meandering process carried out on the threshold between an accumulation of data and an eloquent silence.