e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Lost Cosmonaut: Travels to the republics that tourism forgot

untitled-185x250This travel book by Daniel Kalder 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, poverty and discomfort than I personally like. Cancelled ice shows and closed museums get wearing after a couple of hundred pages.

The people he met on his journeys are mostly ordinary but interesting, struggling to make their marks on the edge of Russian culture. They are not helped, judging by Mr Kalder’s descriptions, by their politicians.

I am not a fan of travel writing; I borrowed the book from the library because it was about places I’d never heard of, and it has not changed my general view of that travel books are not for me.

However, I learned a great deal from this book and am glad I read it. I recommend it to anyone who likes to expand their horizons and learn about the less visible parts of our world. Mr Kalder’s other book, Strange Telescopes, offers more of the same off-the-map stuff and I’ll certainly read it if I come across it.

Picture from Daniel Kalder’s website.


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7 thoughts on “Lost Cosmonaut: Travels to the republics that tourism forgot

  1. Like you I’ve never been a fan if travel writing. But I do like finding out about forgotten corners of the world. I also secretly would have loved to have been a cosmonaut! So this might be a book for me.


  2. Poor travel writing, of which their is an embarrassing amount is very difficult to read, I agree, but it is my favourite genre when beautifully written, specifically when nothing really happens! When a lot does it seems contrived…thanks for the review. Looks interesting. Am currently writing a book with a central character from Kalmykia so that certainly caught my attention!


    • I like the idea of a main character from Kalmykia. Why did you choose that? Do you have connections to the country yourself? It’s nice to hear that this small nation is not forgotten or totally unknown.


      • Thanks for the wonderful, thought-provoking question. She was first from Yakutia, Eastern Siberia, which is an area I find fascinating, but then realised it was ‘too far’.She’s a shaman, and I made her Saami, from northern Scandinavia (Lappland), but then thought readers might find that dull, so looked around a bit, wanting to find somewhere that a shaman could credibly come from. I checked Tuva, too far, and found Kalmikiya fascinating. Still half thinking of Saami, but researched a lot on Kalmykia.


      • I think you could do worse than stick with Kalmykia – but then I’m into the wilder parts of Russia. A shaman has a lot of possibilities. I hope you’ll let us know when the book is written – it sounds different.


      • Will do- there’ll be some on offer of course, and if you write a review definitely! Ahh..the wilder pars of Russia, yes, fascinating. Was in Central Asia…wonderful. I think Yakutia interests me a lot, but so does the Caucasus area, and many other parts. Thanks for the advice about Kalmykia, is quite tough making final decision, though she has been Kalmykian for a while! Will let you know..


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