Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lost Cosmonaut 2006

Lost Cosmonaut by Daniel Kalder.
We ran across this book the other day and remembered that it appeared frequently when conducting searches under "Tatar". We picked it up and decided it was worth a read.

So... A man from Scotland visits Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia, and specifically these locations as he expects to find "nothing" there. He is in search of locations that tourists would never desire to visit.

This strangely appealing book swings back and forth between being incredibly insulting to quite informative.

His sole commentary of the Tatar State Theatre is that the building has "loads of bird shit" on it. He also decides that a Russian he meets in Kazan is a "trouser-pilot" and "cock-muncher".

Here is an excerpt:

"An interesting point regarding those peoples of the former Soviet Union whose names begin with "K": sometimes there is more than one way to spell those names. Kalmyk, for example, is sometimes written Kalmuck, just as Kyrgyz can also be written Kirghiz and I have seen Kazakh spelled Kazak. There is also a group of baptized Tatars called the Krashen or Kreshen.
This signifies that no one in the English-speaking world gives a fuck."

another excerpt:

"I like to read about the Kazan of old, of dreaming minarets and Asiatic bazaars, I do. But I'm glad it was destroyed.
If it existed today it would be a dilapidated heap, or a sterile heritage center, an empty shell that existed for tourists only, insipid and dull, like Prague. But the obliterated Kazan can never be visited, except in our imaginations, and thus it can never disappoint. It has a mythic power. Through annihilation it has been transubstantiated. And the pitiful squalor of the real Kazan only adds to the beauty and power of the unreal one."

Concerning the preservation of the threatened cultures he visits, the author expresses insight in the following excerpt:

"In Tatarstan, In Mari El, I had encountered a ferocious straining, an attempt at self-assertion in the face of global indifference"

This book was originally published as "Travels to the Republics that Tourism Forgot"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, controversy is still open about was it and is it reasonable to pull down some old buildings in Kazan downtown that carried some of the former atmosphere (though, late-imperial and soviet one). I am mainly skepthical about the "reconstruction", how city authorities call it, but in some cases I think the old should give way to the new. For instance, take the Jerminke (Millenium) square by Kazan Kremlin. Some 10...15 years ago it was a set of slums hiding the the citadel from view. Today it's mainly an empty space which is used several times a year for public fest and celebrations like New Year, the City Day and the "Creation of Peace" festival. All games of FC Rubin in Kazan broadcast on TV include a frame with the Kremlin. Finally, it adds to the capital status of Kazan, putting it to one list with Moscow (Red Square), St. Petersburg (Palace Square), Beijing (Tiananmen) etc.