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Strange Telescopes Paperback – 5 Feb 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571231241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571231249
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 589,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


As travel journalists go, Kalder is pretty much the Anti-Palin, scouring obscure locations for excentrics, malcontents and lunatics ... Thoughful and funny. -- Esquire

Kalder is not only an excellent writer, with a vivid turn of phrase, but a sympathetic one: his concern is to ounderstand his subjects rather than exploit them ... his insight and skilful writing keeps you reading. -- Daily Telegraph

Kalder's vivid, witty and sometimes poetic prose describes encounters with wonderful and frightening characters ... Kalder shows a cosmopolitan curiosity and a sense of adventure ... and confirms the exciting talent revealed in his Lost Cosmonaut. -- Scotland on Sunday

Writing that is vibrant and dynamic and which rolls along taking the reader with it. His observations, witty and biting, are spot-on in relation to people and to places. -- Irish Times

a fine guide to a world that will be totally alien to most readers. He writes with incredible energy ... highly successful throughout ... Laid-back, unpretentious delivery, occasional interludes, postcards and posed pictures next to the new Messiah - all combine to make an impressive, unlikely whole. -- Scottish Review of Books --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A hilariously weird, witty and unique travelogue from a dedicated 'antitourist', and author of Lost Cosmonaut.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By D. Humphries on 26 April 2008
Format: Paperback
'Strange Telescopes' is Kalder's follow-up to his first book 'Lost Cosmonaut'. While 'Lost Cosmonaut' dealt predominantly with bizarre, lost or dark places, 'Strange Telescopes' deals with people - bizarre, lost or dark people. It begins with Kalder following The Digger under the surface of Moscow to try and find underground civilizations, then he follows a strange and sincere young film-maker obsessed with demons to the Ukraine on an exorcism tour. He witnesses many an exorcism by extraordinary semi-rogue priests, but also the new politics of a country that welcomed Eurovision like it was the Olympics, and celebrates western Democracy with one hand, while celebrating brutal anti-semitism with the other. His third journey takes him up a mountain in Siberia to meet Vissarion Christ, one time traffic cop and now a modern messiah claiming to be the reincarnation of you-know-who, and with thousands of ex-city followers living in hellish conditions, from pop stars to dwarves. Kalder's final trip is to the Arctic Circle, to the highest wooden skyscraper in the world, built by a Russian businessman. In his meeting with the convicted criminal and entrepreneur, Kalder finds the key to all of his experiences. 'Strange Telescopes' is written by a more mature author than 'Lost Cosmonaut' and tells incredible human stories of people with tremendous vision who lived in a brief period of chaos (Russia in the 1990s) in which time they could create the worlds that they wish existed. Kalder is sympathetic to the creators, does not patronise them, and yet is also realistic in his assessment of their visions. Kalder's trademark dark humour is present throughout, but this time he has an absolute dedication to the veracity of his and their experience. A superb book, that shows insight both into a place and time, but also into human nature in extremis. Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Truth or Fiction? 28 April 2009
By The Lucid Librarian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an unusual travel story, written with a keen eye for human behaviour and a penchant for obsessive personalities. Daniel Kalder has a fascination with life and culture - Russian and ex-Soviet. So much so he has ventured there several times to meet some unusual people and to explore very off-the-beaten-track parts of this world. In essence this is a story about meeting several passionate and unusual men. Firstly he meets up with Vadim the Moscovite with a fascination for the urban subterranean world. Vadim is a man who knows the geo-spatial territory underneath Moscow like the back of his hand, who is paranoid and narcissistic. Meeting up with Vadim leads Kalder into some byways well-and-truly off the regular Moscow tourist map. Next he meets Edward, a gentle Christian man (Orthodox), who believes that exorcism is a constructive way of ridding the world of sin. Edward is an enthusiastic supporter of priests who continue to discretely conduct exorcisms. Kalder's connection with Edward takes him to the far reaches of the Ukraine. After that adventure Kalder goes off to elicit a meeting with Sergei Torop (aka Vissarion) in Siberia to see how the Vissarionite community of followers live and what is behind this man with messianic notions. Rounding off this unusual travelogue is lastly a visit to meet up with Nikolai Sutyagin, the architect (once was successful entrepreneur in the economic explosion that was 'New Russia') of the tallest wooden tower in Arkhangelsk.

All of these individuals Kalder meets are intense personalities obsessed with pushing the boundaries of thought and life. Kalder speculates that these actions are made possible by the radical social and economic changes in the ex-Soviet states; 'anything goes' so there is room for extremism. Most of the book is filled with observations about his travel and the people he meets. So, this thesis is not fully expanded upon. Though, worth noting, in the prologue Kalder says (with one suspects tongue firmly jammed in cheek) that the book should be read as any/all of the following: self-help manual for dreamers, myth or epic enthusiasts, spiritual journey for the soulful and/or [insert your own label]. He finishes the prologue with a cheeky quip: "I know I've told the truth. As for the other people whose words are recorded here - well, that's a different matter."

For those with a love of farce, the bizarre and the human condition... this is for you. This is not remotely anything like any other travel writing possibly imaginable... this is travel not just to extreme places but to meet people at the extreme of life.
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