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The Literary Saloon Archive

21 - 28 February

21 February: Man Booker International odds ? | Pamuk troubles | The Healers review
22 February: Fateless film fate | Young authors in Japan | Closer in Korea
23 February: Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929 - 2005) | Kertesz switches German publishers | TLS literary weblog mention
24 February: Scenes from Comus enthusiasm | Nordic Council Literature Prize 2005 | Swedish literary coverage | CBC Literary Awards | Book review editor weblog | Diary of Andrés Fava review
25 February: Aenid translation | MBI Judges' List announcement coverage | Not quite as thrilled by Ishiguro | Wrong About Japan review
26 February: Man Booker International Prize's worth | Perlentaucher in English | Antunes coverage ?
27 February: 100 Best Scottish Books of All Time ? | First-time novelists | Europeana review
28 February: Taiwanese literature abroad | Fake books in China | Sadeq Hedayat Literary Competition | More on Pamuk

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28 February 2005 - Monday

Taiwanese literature abroad | Fake books in China
Sadeq Hedayat Literary Competition | More on Pamuk

       Taiwanese literature abroad

       Like everybody else, the Taiwanese bemoan the fact that the outside world knows of (and has access to) so little of their literature. Gavin Phipps offers a good overview of the situation and some of what they're trying to do in Taiwan literature a tough sell abroad in the Taipei Times.
       Among the efforts: highlighting the Best from Taiwan and trying to push those books abroad -- see the list of the first batch of chosen titles. (This is apparently only step one: no English translations, even just of the information, appear to be available yet.)
       One of the problems they have in Taiwan: as Phipps puts it: "local literature often plays second fiddle to foreign works". Big-selling books tend to be foreign:
From 2001 to 2003, British author JK Rowling took top honors for her Harry Potter books, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix racking up sales of over 200,000 copies in Taiwan. This year, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code stole the show with sales of over 300,000 copies.

Sales of works by local authors pale in comparison. Ang Li's The Visible Ghosts (...), considered a huge hit by Unitas, sold a mere 3,000 copies in its first few months of publication.

"It makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to promote local literature overseas when even in Taiwan, sales of works by local authors are dwarfed by those of international writers," said Juno Wang, of Unitas, with a shrug of her shoulders.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Fake books in China

       Yes, in China they are apparently having a problem with 'fake books'; that's what Xinhuanet reports.
       Fake books ?
According to Wu Shangzhi, an official from the book division of the administration, there are three kinds of "fake books" in the market: books with made up foreign writers and reviews; books with plagiarized titles and credits of well-known foreign books but different contents and counterfeit works of famous Chinese writers.
       Apparently, people are easily fooled (and impressed): No Excuse, one of 2004's big sellers, "has a phoney book review from The New York Times and false information about the author on its cover."

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Sadeq Hedayat Literary Competition

       As reported by MNA, it was a popular competition: 510 submissions, twenty finalist. "Traffic", by Amir Tajoddin-Riazi, won the first prize, the Hedayat Statuette -- but more interesting were the jury-comments:
The jury members are of the opinion that the short stories which took part in this yearís Sadeq Hedayat Literary Competition are less professional and not at the same level as those of last year.
       And, possibly of interest to Iran-watchers:
According to the jury, death, separation, defeat, and setbacks were the themes dealt with in about 80 percent of the stories.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       More on Pamuk

       We mentioned the unfavourable reaction Orhan Pamuk got when he mentioned that Armenians (and Kurds) had not fared well in Turkey a while back. Nice to see a bit of international press reaction, as Nouritza Matossiann now writes in The Observer, They say 'incident'. To me it's genocide (link first seen at Danny Yee's Pathologically Polymathic).
       As to Turkish reaction to Pamuk's comments, the level of debate can be gauged by pieces such as Ayse Özgün's Orhan Pamuk vs. Michael Moore, in which he comments on Pamuk's "off-the-wall comments", and resorts to clever theories such as:
I and a whole bunch of my friends went and bought every book he wrote only to give up after a few chapters because he is so slow, boring, monotonous and repetitious. Obviously, he has a great translator whom the English-speaking readers should thank.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

27 February 2005 - Sunday

100 Best Scottish Books of All Time ? | First-time novelists | Europeana review

       100 Best Scottish Books of All Time ?

       Yes, yet another vote-for-the-best-book competition. See, for example, William Lyons reporting that: Brought to book: Burns missing from list of best Scottish writing in Scotland on Sunday:
This Thursday, to coincide with World Book Day, culture minister Patricia Ferguson will begin the hunt. At a glittering ceremony, the minister will unveil a guide compiled with the Scottish Book Trust and the List magazine to the 100 Best Scottish Books of All Time and invite the public to start voting for their favourite work from the list.
       See the List-page (and once you know what the hundred are, vote for your favourite here).
       But the list of 100 books is stirring controversy, Lyons noting:
Classic Scottish novels such as Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Kidnapped, Waverley and Ivanhoe have all been left out.

But books with only a tenuous link to Scotland such as Joseph Conradís Heart of Darkness, Ian Flemingís From Russia with Love and George Orwellís 1984 have all been included.
       Well, as Barry Didcock notes in Is this the best scottish book ever ? in the Sunday Herald, list-maker Willy Maley: "was keen to be eclectic" -- though Didock wonders:
As for exclusions, the absence of William Boyd rankles, as does the lack of JM Barrie. And if To The Lighthouse qualifies because itís set in Scotland , then how about Dan Brownís The Da Vinci Code or Foucaultís Pendulum by Umberto Eco ? They both have chapters set here.
       The one book per author limit is also problematic.
       In any case, not everyone is getting all excited: Janice Galloway says:
Lists like this are so ineffably stupid, competitive and whimsical they make me despair. They have nothing whatever to do with literature.
       But if you want to study the list more closely, get your own copy of the pamphlet at

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       First-time novelists

       The Observer talks to half a dozen first-time novelists, about to unleash their works on the public -- the sort of thing many of you appear to find interesting.
       If nothing else, it offers a bit of information about a bunch of forthcoming debuts (not that there's enough information here to even begin to judge them).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Europeana review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Patrik Ouředník's Europeana, a novel-as-A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, forthcoming from Dalkey Archive Press.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

26 February 2005 - Saturday

Man Booker International Prize's worth | Perlentaucher in English | Antunes coverage ?

       Man Booker International Prize's worth

       We mentioned yesterday that the new Man Booker International Prize would make their announcement of who gets to take home the £60,000 that comes with winning in Edinburgh this June.
       What a coup for the city, eh ? Well, they are apparently pleased -- but know that literary prizes aren't exactly big money-makers: in Activities booked to celebrate literary prize in The Scotsman a spokeswoman for Edinburgh and Lothians Tourist Board comments on what it means to host the announcement:
She added that the event itself would probably generate only around £10,000 for the city, but Edinburgh would reap benefits in the long term.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Perlentaucher in English

       Readers of the Literary Saloon will have noticed that we find a fair number of our stories via Perlentaucher, the excellent German site that summarises vast amounts of German (and some other) book and culture coverage. Soon English-speaking readers will get to enjoy it too: an English-language version, signandsight, is due to open in a few weeks. It:
will provide synopses of the German speaking newspapers, acting as a "sign" pointing to events in the worlds of literature, film and the visual and performing arts. The site will also provide a window onto the lively intellectual discussions and debates that make the German feuilletons unique. With English translations of major articles published in the German, Swiss and Austrian press, the new website will give a colourful in-"sight" into the views and opinions expressed in the German feuilletons on events in Germany and the world at large.
       See also the report in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Antunes coverage ?

       It's been over a week since they gave António Lobo Antunes the Jerusalem Prize at the recently held Jerusalem book fair. We've been waiting to collect the links to articles reporting on the ceremony, his speech, etc. so that we can then provide them to you. Only problem: no one seems to have taken much note of this event.
       Talya Halkin's A writer's sensation from The Jerusalem Post seems to be about the extent of it.
       An important prize, a big-name writer, and no coverage ? What gives ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

25 February 2005 - Friday

Aenid translation | MBI Judges' List announcement coverage
Not quite as thrilled by Ishiguro | Wrong About Japan review

       Aenid translation

       Robert Fagles, who has translated several classical works to considerable acclaim, is currently working on Virgil's Aenid. Elyse Graham profiles him in The Daily Princetonian.
       Some interesting translation-commentary:
To fuse the modern and the ancient, the translator must regard the field of literature as divided into "two books," Fagles said.

"One is the ancient book, for which you have all the normal sources: philology, lexicography, commentaries," he said. "The other book is the book of modern speech, of writing. There is 2,700 years' difference between the two ... The task before me is to bring those two books together."

To do so, Fagles said, he is always "on the prowl for modern voices of the heroic," combing books, television broadcasts, and conversational speech to see how language is created and used and to provide fuel for his efforts to achieve emotional as well as literal fidelity to Virgil's original text.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       MBI Judges' List announcement coverage

       The Man Booker International Prize Judges' List (i.e. shortlist) was announced last week at Georgetown University. You can watch the webcast (well, you can try -- it wouldn't play for us), but there has been surprisingly little press coverage -- so much for grabbing attention by holding the press conference in the US. (Yes, they want to attract more international attention for the prize, but perhaps at this stage they would have been better served by making the announcement in the UK, where they actually know what the hell a 'Man Booker' is.)
       A rare exception: Noreen Malone's article, Booker prize shortlist announced at Georgetown, in The Georgetown Voice. Not much additional information, but a few points of interest: Judge Carey believes:
multiculturalism is particularly important to the mission of the new award.

"The prime aim here is to build bridges between cultures, which has never been more urgent than now," he said
       The prime aim ?
According to the judges, the quality of the translation they read influenced their decision more than they would have liked, as style, cadence and wordplay can be difficult to translate.
       That's troubling .....

       There is also Dalya Alberge's 19 February article, Nobel veterans open new Booker chapter, in The Times, quoting Carey:
He noted that more than half of the authors on the shortlist are in translation, including from Hebrew and Japanese: "This was a major consideration for us. We hope this will be a spur to publishers to publish more work in translation and to keep in print work already available."

Professor Carey said: "We are too insular. There are wonderful things, but a lot of readers are cut off from them. Think of the history of novels -- Balzac, Zola . . . we think theyíre English writers in a way. Itís the enormous dominance of English. It means we are cut off from other countries."
       Still, not enough for us to change our odds-predictions -- yet.

       Meanwhile, the BBC reports Edinburgh to host global Booker -- yes, the June announcement of the winner is to be made in Edinburgh. (Hey, it's better than Georgetown .....). No confirmation at the official site yet.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Not quite as thrilled by Ishiguro

       A few days ago we mentioned the very enthusiastic review of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go by Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times. In the 26 February issue of The Spectator Philip Hensher is considerably less enthusiastic in his (not readily accessible) review: "the style is very shakily done (.....) Nor is the plot really much more convincing than the novelís style."
In the past, Ishiguro has been an exceedingly interesting novelist, but he looks increasingly like one at the mercy of his limited linguistic inventiveness. (...) He has a fine capacity for pace and structure, even in When We Were Orphans. But a novel like this constantly brings you up against what he wonít or canít do.
       But Andrew Barrow is also fairly impressed in his review in The Independent.

       (Updated - 26 February): Additional reviews:
(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Wrong About Japan review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Peter Carey's account of A Father's Journey with his Son, Wrong About Japan.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

24 February 2005 - Thursday

Scenes from Comus enthusiasm | Nordic Council Literature Prize 2005
Swedish literary coverage | CBC Literary Awards
Book review editor weblog | Diary of Andrés Fava review

       Scenes from Comus enthusiasm

       As we've mentioned, we're Geoffrey Hill fans, and much looking forward to (eventually) getting our hands on a copy of his new collection, Scenes from Comus.
       There have been some very good (British) reviews, but few come close to Alan Marshall's enthusiasm in his review in The Telegraph. He begins it:
With his new collection of poems, Geoffrey Hill so entirely eclipses most of his contemporaries that it seems meaningless to rank him in relation to them. Trumpets should be blown, garlands made, televisions turned off across the land and the book dropped free from aeroplanes.

I would like to think that they might even convene early in Stockholm and, chastened by the astonishing excellence of these poems, agree now on the proper destination of the next Nobel Prize.
       Damn, we really have to get our hands on this book.
       See also Anthony Thwaite's review in The Telegraph, the Penguin publicity page, or get your copy at

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Nordic Council Literature Prize 2005

       Bookish alerts us to the fact that the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2005 has been announced: Icelandic author Sjón (Sigurjón Birgir Sigurūsson) won with Skugga-Baldur (and with a title like that, how could he not ?).
       As we've mentioned before, the NCLP has a pretty good track record (see previous winners here). We're not sure about Sjón's competition (see the other nominees) -- after all, there was no nomination from either Greenland or the Sami Language area in 2005, so how competitive could it really have been ? -- but they do a pretty good job.
       Even in Scandinavia he doesn't appear to be exactly a household name: prize coverage so far (obviously not in any English-language publications) includes Maria Børja wondering: Ikke hørt om Sjón ? in Dagbladet. Elsewhere Søren Kitaj reports Islænding vinder Nordisk Råds litteraturpris, and Politiken also offers Carsten Andersen's pre-award-announcement interview with him.
       Sjón might even get some foreign press notice: he has an Academy Award nomination to his name too, nominated in 2000 for his lyrics (co-written with Lars von Trier) for Björk's tune, "I've Seen It All" from Dancer in the Dark.
       He sounds like a fun guy too: among the stations in his life: he "Joined the surrealist/punk/dada/performance poetry group Medusa in 1979" (and who doesn't love Icelandic surrealist-punk-dada-performance poetry ?) and enjoyed a "brief career as the megastar Johnny Triumph". See also the site, S j ó n - h i s___l i f e ___a n d____w o r k s.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Swedish literary coverage

       It's enough to bring tears to our eyes: looking for Scandinavian information about Nordic Council Literature Prize winning author Sjón (see above) led us, among other places, to Svenska Dagbladet's literary coverage, which we don't check out nearly enough.
       What's on offer there ? Oh, the usual coverage of new titles in Swedish -- and, on Tuesday, Martin Lagerholm's review of Marjorie Perloff's The Vienna Paradox (which we've been meaning to cover for a while -- and which almost no one in the US media has touched so far), and then yesterday Eva Johansson's review of Cynthia Ozick's Heir to the Glimmering World (see also our review).
       These aren't reviews of the Swedish editions, mind you, they're reviews of the English-language originals, which we assume aren't available in every Swedish bookshop and presumably won't exactly attract thousands (or probably even hundreds) of Swedish readers. And Svenska Dagbladet may be the leading Swedish daily, but it still is only a newspaper -- and still manages to provide coverage you'd only expect in some tiny literary magazine devoted to foreign literature. Meanwhile, in the US we're more likely to find James Patterson reviewed in The New York Times (or non-fiction) than real books. What gives ? Why can the Swedes do this -- and why can't the Americans (and Brits) ? Not that we're asking that they review untranslated Swedish books (though, boy, would that make our day), but at least English-language books of this calibre and significance.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       CBC Literary Awards

       More awards: the always fun, two-language CBC Literary Awards have been announced: see the list of winners and runners-up.
       The prizes were apparently announced yesterday: "in a star-studded gala at the National Gallery of Canada". Fortunately, for all of us who couldn't be there:
The gala will be broadcast on CBCís Radio One on March 10th at 10 pm EST and on Radio-Canadaís Première ChaÓne on March 11 at 8 pm EST.
       Maybe next year they'll broadcast them live .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Book review editor weblog

       MadInkBeard alerts us to a new weblog: Books, Inq., billing itself as: "A behind-the-scenes look at a book-review editor's world".
       The editor is Frank Wilson of the (frustratingly registration requiring) The Philadelphia Inquirer.
       So far: not enough behind-the-scenes fun, but we'd love to see more editors start blogging. How about it, Mr. Tanenhaus ?

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Diary of Andrés Fava review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of a literary oddity, Julio Cortázar's Diary of Andrés Fava, which Archipelago is bringing out soon.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

23 February 2005 - Wednesday

Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929 - 2005) | Kertesz switches German publishers
TLS literary weblog mention

       Guillermo Cabrera Infante (1929 - 2005)

       Cuban-born writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante has died.
       Dalkey Archive Press is publishing two of his major works, Three Trapped Tigers (available now) and Infante's Inferno (due out in April).
       Obituaries can be found at (updated):        His interview at The Paris Review will only become freely accessible 25 April.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Kertesz switches German publishers

       In a devastating blow to top German literary publisher Suhrkamp, Nobel laureate Imre Kertész,who switched from Rowohlt to them after winning the Nobel prize has decided he feels more comfortable at Rowohlt after all. Manuel Brug reports on it in Die Welt (link first seen at Perlentaucher) -- and he notes that it's only the latest blow to the prestigious house: among others, Christoph Hein's most recent novel, In seiner frühen Kindheit ein Garten, (which we hope to eventually review) has proved a major disappointment.
       It's not only that Suhrkamp had the German rights to Kertész's works, they handled the world rights ..... And what a time to lose him: apparently the in-the-works autobiography (German title: Dossier K.) will now also go to Rowohlt -- and it sounds like there will be considerable international interest in that work (which will presumably be more accessible than much of his fiction).

       (Updated): See also Ina Hartwig's commentary in the Frankfurter Rundschau (link also first seen at Perlentaucher).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       TLS literary weblog mention

       In his NB-column in the 18 February Times Literary Supplement J.C. briefly discusses literary weblogs, noting:
Literary weblogs (blogs) are occasionally cheering and informative complements to the world of print and paper, but only a cyber-fanatic would now argue that they could replace it.
       He also observes: "The signs are that they pine for the permanence of print", citing as examples the Grumpy Old Bookman's recent print-collection of his weblog (see our previous mention) and Bookslut-Jessa Crispin's The Guardian-appearance.

       (Updated - 24 February): See full text at Golden Rule Jones.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

22 February 2005 - Tuesday

Fateless film fate | Young authors in Japan | Closer in Korea

       Fateless film fate

       As we mentioned the film version of Imre Kertesz's novel Fatelessness was a late addition to the Berlinale -- and the German reviews were not exactly enthusiastic.
       The festival is now over, and the movie didn't take home any awards, but there are now a few English-language reviews as well.
       Peter Bradshaw, writing in The Guardian, is the most enthusiastic -- giving it four stars, and opining: "This is an extremely powerful film that has captured the imagination of festivalgoers." (The latter claim is not corroborated by the German reviews, which gave a distinctly different impression of the audience's feelings.)
       Tim Robey takes an "agnostic" position in the Daily Telegraph:
It's the directorial debut of cinematographer Lajos Koltai, and feels very much like a cameraman's vision of the Holocaust, shot with an often reckless attention to compositional beauty and low on new or really distinctive insights. A bold, hard ending makes up for some of its shortfalls.
       Meanwhile Eszter Balázs' report of the screening at the Hungarian Film Festival in The Budapest Sun says it "proved a disappointment" and that:
One could feel the discomfort of the audience losing its hope for a valuable interpretation of the book.
       She also writes:
Just about the only advantage of the numerous embarrassing scenes was that they were actually cut quite short: the film is made up of a line of clips, fading into black on short notice.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Young authors in Japan

       The flood of young (not to say immature) authors getting published seems an even worse problem in Japan that in the US or UK, at least as Osamu Kato describes it in the Asahi Shimbun, Youngsters changing literary landscape:
Young Japanese writers seem to keep getting younger. Last month a 15-year-old became the recipient of the 6th Shogakukan Paperback Novel Prize. Equipped with computers and spurred by the news that a 19-year-old won the Akutagawa Prize for literature last year, young writers are creating their own novels -- their own way.
       Particularly scary: that some one like Akutagawa-winner Masahiro Mita would say:
This may sound extreme, but if an elementary school kid just put his or her reality on paper, without trying too hard, the child might end up with a refreshing masterpiece.
       Refreshing, sure , .....

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Closer in Korea

       Patrick Marber's recently filmed play, Closer, is being staged in Korea.
       Yang Sung-jin reports Nam delves into nasty character for 'Closer' in The Korea Herald -- and see the fancy official site for this production (which only runs 25 February to 13 March).

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

21 February 2005 - Monday

Man Booker International odds ? | Pamuk troubles | The Healers review

       Man Booker International odds ?

       A few days ago we mentioned that the first Man Booker International Prize's Judges' List (i.e. the shortlist of contenders) had been announced.
       Despite the far too large -- eighteen authors strong -- list of contenders, we thought it might be fun to handicap the field. Not a very sensible exercise, given that the decision rests in the hands of three judges whose predilections can only be guessed at, but if you're interested, see our: The Man Booker International Prize 2005: Handicapping the Field: A Punter's Guide.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       Pamuk troubles

       A couple of weeks back Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, promoting the publication of Snow in German translation, gave an interview to Peer Teuwsen in the Swiss Tages-Anzeiger (interview not freely accessible), in which he stated that one of the reasons he wasn't popular back home was because he acknowledged that "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians had been killed in Turkey". Not only did this not go over well in Turkey, it could apparently land Pamuk in court (and, theoretically, in jail). Yes, Kayseri Bar Association attorney Orhan Pekmezci has filed charges against Pamuk, accusing him of violating Articles 159 and 312 of the Turkish Penal Code.
       Hakob Chakrian saw it coming last week in AZG Armenian Daily, warning Turkey to Target at Orhan Pamuk and describing some of the Turkish reactions. He also comments:
Itís worthless to comment on the response of the Turkish press and the scientists to the statement made by Orhan Pamuk. We just want to inform our readers about the confrontation, so that the Armenian society can response the anti-Armenian statements of the dregs of society that have to unfold Turkish-Azeri propaganda in Armenia.
       Now Turkish Daily News write about the actual charges, in Another charge filed against writer Orhan Pamuk. Pekmezci explains his reasons for filing the charges:
"Pamuk has made groundless claims against the Turkish identity, the Turkish military and Turkey as a whole. I think he should be punished for violating Article 159 and 312 of the Turkish Penal Code," said Pekmezci after filing charges at the Kayseri State Prosecutor's office. "He made a statement provoking the people to hatred and animosity through the media, which is defined as a crime in Article 312."
       For more details on the articles in question, see KurdishMedia's commentary on Reforms on Freedom of Expression, parts one and two (scroll down on the second page for the laws and amendments), as well as the Turkish PM press office's press release on the recent amendments made to them.
       Among the interesting (and problematic, for Pamuk) aspects of the law: 159 includes the provision that:
If insulting Turkish national identity is carried out in a foreign country by a Turk the punishment given will be increased from one-third to one-half.
       And doing the deed in the media also ups the punishment.
       Obviously the PR-nightmare of incarcerating Pamuk prevents the authorities from really going after him, but pity the poor soul who isn't an internationally recognised author who makes such "groundless claims".

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

       The Healers review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is our review of Ayi Kwei Armah's The Healers, which we've finally gotten to.

(Posted by: complete review)    - permanent link -

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