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.
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Read an Excerpt
Lost CosmonautObservations of an Anti-Tourist
By Daniel Kalder
ScribnerCopyright © 2006 Daniel Kalder
All right reserved.
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
(Excerptsfrom 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
Excerpted from Lost Cosmonaut by Daniel Kalder Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Kalder. Excerpted by permission.
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