Sunday, August 15, 2010

daniel kalder's lost cosmonaut

I finished Daniel Kalder's Lost Cosmonaut last the week, and it's one I don't regret spending a few weeks with. His search for nothingness left an impression of something as well as memories of Mig Mag burgers, strange dictators, and an excursion to Chess City. And he did manage to get one of my favorite half Hebs--Kasparov the Chess Grand Master--into his discussion although not in a perfectly positive way (basically, Kasparov protested a chess fed. move until money shut him up).

In a different way, his desolate landscapes remind me of some of the contemporary strand of Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project although Hemon's protagonist (his Hemon, so to speak)  is decidedly to the North and West of Kalder's more extreme world. Hemon shows us Muslims in the Balkans, but Kalder gives us even more obscure and forgotten Europeans in areas that are much closer to South or perhaps South Central Asia.

While reading Kalder, I also thought of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which offers significant satire of the Soviet attempt to destroy native languages and customs in the same region while exporting Russian language and life ways. Kalder revisits this aspect of Bolshevism in greater clarity, and we get a strong sense of his moral objection to all kinds of imperialism--European, Soviet, and so on. And at the same time, he indicates that he believes in war's inevitability, a sad view perhaps but one difficult to oppose with evidence.

As I understand it, after ten years or so in Russia, the Scotland native Kalder now resides in Texas. His sensibility and willingness to travel to more obscure and even dangerous regions would seem to make him a perfect fit for a trip to the border regions of U.S. and Mexico. But I don't know his current pursuits or what he has planned.

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