54 by Wu Ming

By Wu Ming

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Fully assembled on 16 February 1953 in the factories of McGuffin Electric, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he had been one of the first deluxe models turned out by the company. At the end of the month the Bainton family had bought him in an electrical goods shop in Baltimore. From his very first beginnings, McGuffin had proved to be a truly extraordinary television set. On 5 March, after less than a month of life, he had delighted the master of the house with the sensational news of the death of Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as Stalin.

Meanwhile there was an Austrian dauber out there winning a career and followers, whose speeches hit the hearts of the Volk ‘like hammer-blows’, and a distant clang of weapons heralded the worst: the clash of two worlds. Against the world of Cary Grant, the dauber had finally lost with dishonour, in a puddle of blood and shit. Without a doubt, the Russian winter was partly responsible, but one thing was certain: the New Man, at least for the time being, 100itext 9/3/05 50 7:17 am Page 50 WU MING wouldn’t be having to tuck his trousers into two-foot-high leather boots to march the goose-step.

Cary was a long way from being a radical, let alone a communist, but how could he bear all those intrusions into people’s privacy, their political ideas: ‘Have you ever been a member of such and such a party, such and such a union, such and such a circle . . ’ What had come over everyone? Either you were good at your work or you weren’t, you were a good set designer, or director, or actor, or you weren’t. If the jokes were funny, if the love scenes were exciting, if the story had a beginning and an end, in that order if possible, then nothing else mattered.

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