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A tale of adventure, conversation, boredom, and observation -- occasionally enhanced by an overactive imagination -- Kalder reveals a world of hidden cities, lost rites, mail-order brides, machine guns, mutants, and cold, cold emptiness. In the desert wastelands of Kalmykia, he stumbles upon New Vasyuki, the only city in the world dedicated to chess. In Mari El, home to Europe's last pagan nation, he meets the chief Druid and participates in an ancient rite; while in the bleak industrial badlands of Udmurtia, Kalder searches for Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47, and inadvertently becomes a TV star. An unorthodox mix of extraordinary stories woven together with fascinating history, peculiar places, and even stranger people, Lost Cosmonaut is poetic and profane, hilarious and yet oddly heartwarming, bizarre and even educational. In short, it's the perfect guide to the most alien planet in our cosmos: Earth.
"Revelatory." — The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"A considerable achievement." — The Guardian (London)
"Imagine a Bill Bryson with Tourette's, and you'll have some of the flavour of this spasmodic, deliberately crass, strangely wonderful book." — Evening Standard (London)
"Kalder has written a brilliantly funny travel book that questions the essence of exploration and the nature of tourism in an age when there's nowhere new to go."-- (UK)
"A considerable achievement."-- (London)
"Imagine a Bill Bryson with Tourette's, and you'll have some of the flavour of this spasmodic, deliberately crass, strangely wonderful book."-- (London)
A note on this book:
This book is divided into four sections, four separate but interrelated journeys carried out over a period of several years. To fully capture this sense of time, one ought not to read continuously but rather, upon completion of each section, put the book down, go for a cup of tea, have a nap, take a stroll, that sort of thing. To achieve full results, one ought to put the book down for one year after reading Tatarstan, then for another year after reading about Kalmykia and for a full eighteen months before reading about Mari El. The last gap is much shorter: you need only wait four and a half months before reading about Udmurtia. In total then, it ought to take you almost four years to finish this book, which is not so ridiculous, when you consider that four years is approximately how much of our lives we spend shitting.
On the other hand, you can choose to ignore this advice and read the book in one sitting, forward, backward, sideways, or indeed upside down. It's entirely up to you. I was just trying to be helpful.
From The Shymkent Declarations
(Excerpts from the resolutions passed at the first international congress of Anti-Tourists at the Shymkent hotel, Shymkent, Kazakhstan, October 1999)
...As the world has become smaller, so its wonders have diminished. There is nothing amazing about the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids of Egypt. They are as banal as the face of a Cornflakes packet.
Consequently the true unknown frontiers lie elsewhere.
The duty of the traveler, of the voyager is to open up new zones of experience. In our overexplored world these must of necessity be wastelands, black holes, and grim urban blackspots: all the places which, ordinarily, people choose to avoid.
The only true voyagers, therefore, are anti-tourists. Following this logic we declare that:
The anti-tourist does not visit places that are in any way desirable. -
The anti-tourist eschews comfort.
The anti-tourist embraces hunger and hallucinations and shit hotels.
The anti-tourist seeks locked doors and demolished buildings.
The anti-tourist scorns the bluster and bravado of the daredevil, who attempts to penetrate danger zones such as Afghanistan. The only thing that lies behind this is vanity and a desire to brag.
The anti-tourist travels at the wrong time of year.
The anti-tourist prefers dead things to living ones.
The anti-tourist is humble and seeks invisibility.
The anti-tourist is interested only in hidden histories, in delightful obscurities, in bad art.
The anti-tourist believes beauty is in the street.
The anti-tourist holds that whatever travel does, it rarely broadens the mind.
The anti-tourist values disorientation over enlightenment.
The anti-tourist loves truth, but he is also partial to lies. Especially his own.
Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Kalder
Posted December 26, 2007
Non-fiction. The author goes to the most dismal and hopeless places in the world, also making a point to go at the wrong time of year for travel. He goes to little lost communites that should have been absorbed into the surrounding country (mostly in Eastern Europe), but exist still, sort of like out-of-place leftovers. (Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia are the places he visits... Have you heard of them? Probably not.) I didn't really enjoy this book, although there were some entertaining anecdotes. His attitude bothered me. He claimed he wanted to find out about the local people, but he came across as completely misanthropic and anti-social. Some interesting b&w photos throughout.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2006
In the middle of a winter tree grove, Daniel Kalder accidentally clubs a pagan high priest with his own sacred staff. He gets personally insulted by the inventor of the Kalashinikov. And he finds a massive abandoned city in the desert, dedicated to chess. In Russia there are many semi-autonomous republics - like US States - but with their own presidents, their own religions, and struggling to retain their own cultures. Kalder visits these republics and looks realistically but sympathetically at their desires, dreams and prospects. He visits ghost towns, marriage agencies, meets eccentrics carving out their own realities, and ambitious people, determined to break out into a wider world, but unable to imagine beyond Russia. Kalder is very funny, with a dry, black sense of humour, and his intense imagination finds these places to be extraordinary canvases upon which to paint his thoughts and ideas. Knowledgeable, fascinating and eye opening, this is an excellent, hilarious read for anyone interested in culture, history, travel or simply the human state.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.