Going nowhere

Lost Cosmonaut, a darkly humorous, haphazard tour around Russia’s dreariest republics has turned out to be a surprise hit for its author, Daniel Kalder. On a stop off in London between trips to the emptiest corners of the world, the anti-travel travel writer talks to Sarah Crown, the editor of Guardian Unlimited Books, about dead end towns and his search for Mikhail Kalashnikov.”

From The Guardian:

I first encountered Daniel Kalder over a year ago, under extremely odd circumstances.

When an email entitled ‘From Moscow: A Very Unusual Request’ dropped into my inbox in January 2005, my first instinct was to delete it (the phrase “unusual request” shouts spam and scams). The reference to Moscow was just intriguing enough, however, to persuade me to open it, on the off-chance that it might be genuine.

And genuine it was. In a lengthy email, Kalder introduced himself as the author of a forthcoming “anti-travel” book in which he explores four of Russia’s most mysterious ethnic republics. As part of the research for a subsequent book, he explained, he was in the process of applying for a visa for another ex-Soviet republic which is notoriously wary about admitting foreigners. Acting as a barrier to his application, it seemed, was a mention of his real name (he normally writes under a pseudonym) on Guardian Unlimited Books, in a feature on books to look out for in the next year. His “unusual request” was that we help him disappear by removing his name from the article until after his visa was granted. Normally, of course, we wouldn’t dream of tweaking the site to oblige an author, but these were exceptional circumstances. We took down the mention of his name, and a few weeks later Kalder got in touch again to say that his visa request had been granted. He thanked us for our help and promised to send a copy of his book when it came out.

More here.