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e-flux conversations

Dear Navigator, Part I

The cat is too clean to want to be human.

Dear Navigator,

I don’t know your real name, but I’m sure “Navigator” is an appropriate substitute that both reflects the place where I hold you in my heart and conveys the respect I’ve silently maintained for you these many years. If you permit, I’d like to continue addressing you by this name. Actually, I hear we’re almost the same age, and this makes me all the more eager for us to share a sustained correspondence.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Xie Delin. My parents met working for the Party in the Soviet Union, and when I was born they gave me what was then a popular Soviet name, Vladimir Ilyich Xie Delin.

At the time, the Soviet Union was known as “Soviet elder brother.” My parents diligently studied Russian, because it was the key to unlocking the future of International Communism. But quite soon China ushered in an anti-revisionist movement, and to avoid sabotaging my prospects, no more mention was made of my Soviet name. I still remember how melancholy and plaintive were the Soviet folk songs my mother would softly sing to herself at night. It’s possible to find even more details about my parents’ story in the archives of the Chinese Communist Party, and the reason I mention this is because I’ve recently resurrected my formerly short-lived Soviet name, which is directly related to the experimental project in which I am now involved.

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