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Kalder, Daniel, Strange Telescopes [2008] (London: Faber & Faber, 2008).

When Daniel Kalder, acclaimed author of one of the most unusual and feted travel debuts of the twenty-first century, Lost Cosmonaut, descended into the sewers of Moscow in pursuit of the mythical lost city of tramps, he didn’t realise that he was embarking on a bizarre, year-long odyssey that would lead him thousands of miles across Russia to the Arctic Circle via the heart of Asia. Now he has returned, mad-eyed and bearded, to tell the tale.

After exploring the depths of Moscow’s ‘Underground Planet’, Kalder descends yet further to a Ukrainian vision of hell, chasing down demons and exorcists in the dubious afterglow of the Orange Revolution, before ascending to meet Vissarion Christ, one-time traffic cop, now messiah to thousands of followers calmly awaiting the apocalypse at the foot of his holy mountain in Siberia. Finally, in the long polar night at the edge of the world Kalder enters the only wooden skyscraper on the planet and encounters a man with a bizarre secret that may explain everything . . .

Salvation and damnation, humour and pathos and keen and caustic observations collide as Daniel Kalder expertly guides us through the alternative realities, rebels and opportunists, further expanding the possibilities of the travel memoir with this unique account of a modern day quest that reveals the astonishing lengths people will go to when they view the world through a ‘strange telescope’.

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