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Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-Tourist
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Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-Tourist

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  232 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Daniel Kalder belongs to a unique group: the anti-tourists. Sworn to uphold the mysterious tenets of The Shymkent Declarations, the anti-tourist seeks out the dark, lost zones of our planet, eschewing comfort, embracing hunger and hallucinations, and always traveling at the wrong time of year. In Lost Cosmonaut, Kalder visits locations that most of us don't even know exist ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Scribner
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International Cat Lady
I really wanted to be able to give this book 5 stars. The topic (travelling through desolate corners of the former Soviet Union) is one which is near and dear to my heart - just check out desolationtravel.com and you'll see what I mean! I was sooooo excited to discover that such a book existed and eagerly awaited its arrival at my doorstep. Unfortunately, I found the book both underwhelming and annoying. Had it not been about a topic which I love, I probably would've only given it two stars. For ...more
Rosamund
Extremely interesting journey through Europe's minority cultures which have been absorbed into Russia - for example, Kalmykia, the only European republic with Buddhism as an official religion. This only makes my hunger to somehow go to Russia bigger. The author has the type of humour that Britain is meant to be famous for, yet no British person seems to have - black humour, that is - and that pretty much makes you feel as if you are right there in the "Chess City" or in "Mig Mag", the Udmurtian ...more
Andrew Blinkinsop

“Не так ли и ты, Русь, что бойкая необгонимая тройка, несёшься? … Русь, куда ж несёшься ты? дай ответ. Не дает ответа.”*

Sitting on a slow, rumbling train from Moscow to Izhevsk, the capital of the Republic of Udmurtia, Daniel Kalder seeks an answer to Gogol’s question with seemingly passive, unfiltered observations of the frozen landscape that creeps steadily past the windows of his wagon. He notices crumbling factory infrastructure, empty train cars, bizarre abandoned construction equipment, tw
...more
Mitch
This book is for people who have traveled a lot or read a lot of travel books, or both. I figure they want something off the beaten path and this is it.

Daniel goes places no one else goes simply because there is little there to attract. He picks four semi-autonomous republics that you've probably never heard of in the vicinity of Russia. Then he tells you about them from his limited exposure and skewed perspectives.

What's good about this is Daniel's different-ness. What's not so good is his lack
...more
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Although the book rides high on the current popular wave of gonzo journalism, I might have found my guru. From the inside front cover: 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 loves truth, but is also partial to lies. Especially his own.
And a few more gems from "The Shymkent Declaration": The anti tourist believes beauty is in the street. The ant
...more
Josephus FromPlacitas
Three and three-quarters stars. The promise of this travelogue was greater than the final product for me.

I guess I've become spoiled by The eXile where incredible writers and stuntmen of misery like Mark Ames, Yasha Levine, Jake Rudnitsky and so many others make modern-day Russia sound like a simultaneous Babylon, Shangri-La and Warsaw Ghetto. Ironically enough, Kalder ends up quoting a passage from The eXile's Death Porn column on the last page of his book, inadvertently showing readers just w
...more
Nick Sweeney
Daniel Kalder casts his sarcastic eye over his own life in Moscow, and then takes it with him to some of Russia's almost-forgotten republics, dragging friends and strays with him occasionally, but mostly alone. I loved his free-form rovings, both physical and philosophical; even he isn't sure why he's bothering to travel to places that are inhospitable, nothing much to look at and only interesting when you aren't in them, and can wonder about them at your leisure. He gets to Kazan, the capital o ...more
Tony Hightower
In which the author, a Scottish Russophile, goes to four of the more obscure former Soviet Republics under the pretense of learning about the fading cultures of people who are being assimilated into (and overrun by) the Russian cultural juggernaut. The idea of going to places that have very little to offer tourists and write about them as if they were major destinations is interesting, but he undercuts himself constantly, allowing himself to be put off by people who could help him find these peo ...more
Erik
“Bill Bryson with Tourette’s”, according to the UK’s Evening Standard, more than aptly describes Kalder’s multi-trip travelogue to four of the more obscure former Soviet Republics: Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia. Further off the beaten track than anything mentioned in those Lonely Planet guides, Kalder is a self-described anti-tourist who embraces the philosophy of the extreme world traveler. Some of which includes the following:

• The anti-tourist does not visit places that are in an
...more
E A M Harris
This travel book is about visits to Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia. In case, like me, you've not heard of these nations, they're republics of the Russian Federation and are nominally in Europe.
Mr Kalder describes himself as an anti-tourist and he certainly has a passion for untouristy destinations. His writing is easy to read and vivid and gives a clear picture of the towns and villages and their peoples. Unfortunately, his passion encourages him to dwell more on the emptiness, povert
...more
liz
Russky-crazed Scott decides to explore the former Soviet Union's most obscure republics. I was ambivalent about the narrow focus, and think that it may have worked better as a bunch of magazine pieces (come to think of it, I think some of the chapters were magazine pieces!). It alternates between endearing and annoying that Kalder is so ambivalent about the places he travels to. Yes, I do have a place in my heart for a smart-ass, but I don't think he always made the best choices of things to moc ...more
Christopher
I was really looking forward to reading Daniel Kalder's LOST COSMONAUT, where the Scottish author travels to four little-known parts of Russia seeking out places precisely for a their lack of tourist appeal. As a linguist studying minority languages of Russia, I have been to some of the places Kalder describes and found them enchanting. I hoped that his book might show people the considerable challenges minority populations face in contemporary Russia. And as a passionate traveler who wants to s ...more
Joshua
This book has an interesting hook--Kalder goes to the unknown void of Russia's fringe republics and writes about his experiences. The problem is Kalder is such a total ass that his personality nearly ruins any desire you might have to read more about his trips--I made it through but was tempted a few times to stop because of Kalder himself. When he's writing about the people's history from the area it's better but when he's mocking the locals it's kind of absurd. This is a travel book but Kalder ...more
Steve
Nov 07, 2007 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Yes
Daniel Kalder is a travel author, professional pessimist and can be a bit abrasive in describing the places he visits. He seems to take comfort in the dilapidated state of the countries and republics that he visits throughout Lost Cosmonaut. I love learning about the history of these largely unknown Eastern European places. Ever heard of Tatarstan? Me niether. What about Kalmykia? Nope? I didn't until I started reading this book.

One thing I learned: The President of Kalmykia is the youngest pres
...more
Robert
An interesting perspective on travel, eschewing the usual tourist mindset of pleasure or experiential growth. Kalder believes (so he says and recounts in the Shymkent Declarations) that life is fundamentally a bleak void, and wants the landscapes he visits to reflect thusly. So he spends his time in dismal former Soviet (semi-)autonomous republics looking for boredom and misery. While the idea is worth pondering existentially, it is certainly not as revelatory as reading Camus or Sartre's Nausea ...more
Alla Babushkina virdee
Depending on the kind of person you are, you will love this book or hate it. If you can understand the desire to travel to an industrial wasteland and see what the McD's is like there, you need to read this. If that seems like a waste of time, you really need a different travel book.
Justin
That seemed so promising when I found it on the remainder rack in a strip mall next to an overfilled IHOP a few weeks ago.

The writing in this volume is lazy, just vignettes really, without the hard work of linking them in to a well-structured narrative. That would be ok, I guess, making for a decent bathroom book, but the narrator (the author) is so awful I barely got through the first section. The homophobia, the self-congratulatory douchery, the casual racism ... all too much for me.

Perhaps
...more
Lauren
Aug 17, 2007 Lauren rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my cynical male friends who like irony
Shelves: essaymemoir
Daniel Kalder travels to forgotten Russian republics, like Tatarstan, Kalmykia, and Mari El Udmurtia, places most of us don't even know exist. He discovers a city entirely devoted to chess, sits in on a Finno-Ugric pagan ceremony, and inadvertently becomes a TV star. His unreliable narration is hilarious and flippant, and also allows you to step outside of it. He also makes a great case for the "forgotten non-entities" and the value of visiting the void. However, the book's about the former Sovi ...more
Ross Perlin
An unusual travel book of sorts, grounded in a theory of anti-tourism, exploring the Russian republics of Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia. Relentlessly sarcastic and setting itself against the genre, the book still delivers up a lot of great stories (real or otherwise) and pleasantly undermines its own authority at every point. For someone who’s traveled or lived in Russia, a lot of it rings true. Anecdotes include the mail-order bride businesses of Yoshkar Ola, Chess City, the Udmurt ...more
Will
This book actually belongs on my 'stopped-reading' shelf. I got it on a recommendation from a friend, like the 'anti-tourist' take on Russia, a country which lends itself to anti-tourism well, but was pretty irritated by it already after the first couple of chapters. After the author dwells on how he was disturbed by being stared at by a 'cock-muncher' I stopped reading it. Homophobes who let someone of the same sex making a pass at them freak them don't make for good travel writers, either as t ...more
Beckie
parts of this travelogue of places "untouched by tourism" i liked a lot. he had an interesting perspective on travelling and what counts as an authentic experience. the best part of the book was the outlandish chapter on mari el and the pagan chief he met there. he was amusingly snarky* for the most part, but sometimes his unimpressed tone got annoying.
Lucy
parts of this travelogue of places "untouched by tourism" i liked a lot. he had an interesting perspective on travelling and what counts as an authentic experience. the best part of the book was the outlandish chapter on mari el and the pagan chief he met there. he was amusingly snarky* for the most part, but sometimes his unimpressed tone got annoying.
C
It is exactly what it claims to be. If you read it and then complain that it's not, well, you're the one who didn't listen to this review. The dude goes to places that don't have tourist stuff to not be a tourist and as a result it's kinda boring and not really enlightening but it is at least honest about that and overall.
Alyssa
I can't in good conscience give any stars at all to this pretentious hipster crap. The icing on the cake was the author's assertion that he loves circuses - the crueler the better - and describes his favorite which involved dwarves CRUCIFYING a monkey. It's a damn shame trees died to publish this shite.
Leah
Meh. Nothing terribly bad, but not something I'm compelled to finish. The author's attitude towards traveling off the beaten path was appealing in my early twenties, however that wild spirit has been tempered as I have matured and I see just how much exploring can be done in my metaphorical backyard.
Datsun
Like Joesephus (from Placitas), I was expecting more from the promise of the idea. But the writer goes on about the pointlessness of his actions often enough where I started to wonder about the pointlessness of his writing about them.

Which didn't say much about my reward for reading it.
Jerzy
There are so many sentiments with which I agree... and many with which I'd nod my head but then realize I don't really agree at all. It's a good read for making you think about what you value and why. The underlying question really is: What in this world is worth experiencing?
Fauzi Agustian
It's interesting book which tells about the trip in Uni Soviet. daniel tells us who his trips were so fascinating. Reading this boot makes me jealous at the same time because he really got involved in funny and challenging journey. Yeah good book!
Peter
An interesting read that I devoured in only a few days. If you're interested in parts of this world that are off the beaten path, and the secret histories that exist all around us, this is a book you shouldn't overlook.
Kriegslok
Someone else with my sort of approach to travel. It's the stuff the tourist boards don't want you to see and do that is most interesting. A fascinating incite into places few people will ever want to visit.
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