Daniel Kalder: Dictator Literature: A history of Despots through their writing

Best-selling author Daniel Kalder makes a welcome return to his hometown of Dunfermline to talk about his latest work Dictator Literature. In what’s sure to be an entertaining evening, Daniel will appear in conversation with journalist Jackie McGlone  as they take an unforgettable look at the power of the pen. From Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Mao’s Little Red Book, the event will journey into the literary night to discover what these books reveal about the dictatorial soul. 

Daniel Kalder was born and raised in Dunfermline, where he attended Queen Anne High School before studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. In 1997, after spending a month working as a civil servant, he decided to escape what promised to be a lifetime of comfortable boredom and moved to Russia at the high point of Yeltsin-era gangster capitalism. Originally planning to stay for a year only, he became fascinated by what he saw there and spent the better part of the next decade working, living, and travelling in and around the former Soviet Union.

His travels in the ethnic republics of European Russia led to his pioneering work of “anti-tourism”,  Lost Cosmonaut (2006), while his second book, Strange Telescopes (2008) saw him dive deep into the psychic wreckage of post-Soviet Russia and become one of the first western writers to interview Vissarion Christ, an ex-Soviet traffic cop turned messiah living on top of a mountain in Siberia. In 2006 Kalder traveled to the Central Asian dictatorship of Turkmenistan, which sparked a fascination for the writings of tyrants. After spending almost a decade reading and researching the poetry, novels and theoretical works of Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Mao and many other tyrants, he published his third book, the critically acclaimed Dictator Literature (2018).

In addition, Kalder has written for The Guardian, Esquire, the Times Literary Supplement and many other publications around the world, and has written and presented for BBC radio. He moved to Austin, Texas twelve years ago and has no plans to leave any time soon.

Dictator Literature reviews:

‘I enjoyed this book a great deal . . . it’s actually a rather snappy read.’  Will Self, Guardian

‘A fascinating study…partly an enjoyable romp but mostly a sombre sidelong-glance history of 20th-century totalitarianism.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Brisk, and full of antic fun.’  New Statesman

‘Kalder is our cheeky and irreverent guide to the (generally aggressively tedious) prose by history’s despots.’ Tatler

‘Daniel Kalder…deserves a medal…Dictator Literature is a great book…An insightful book, but also a funny one.’  The Times

Jackie McGlone  is an Edinburgh-based freelance feature writer specialising in profiles and features for colour magazines, as well as interviews with leading figures in the arts, internationally renowned authors and celebrities, from Paul Auster and Margaret Atwood to the late Joan Rivers. She chairs a number of events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and has also mediated at author events in New York and at the British Library, in London. Born and educated in the north of England, she was the first woman deputy editor of a Scottish newspaper and has held executive posts on The Observer, The Sunday Standard, The Evening Times, The Scotsman and The Herald.


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