Shadow DSC prize winner

 

Well we have managed to read between Lisa ,Tara and myself to read all the shortlist and in the end had read forurteen books between us at least two or us had read the shortlised books.Not bad as we decide only just before christmas to do a shadow jury .Next year we will be more on the ball .

 

Shortlisted Authors:

  • Bilal Tanweer: The Scatter Here is Too Great (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland (Vintage Books/Random House, India)
  • Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury, India)    
  • Romesh Gunesekera: Noontide Toll (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, India)       
  • Shamsur Rahman Faruqi: The Mirror of Beauty (Penguin Books, India)

So we weight up the list which for me was very strong a couple of writers quite well known , one truly epic novel , one new name to me at least and a short story collection from a writer I really like .So i just managed to finish the fifthn book last night and have two more to review , so thankfully the winner we choose was a book I have reviewed .

the mirror of beauty

We have chosen the Mirror of beauty for the first shadow DSC prize and it is the Epic The mirror of beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi .I had this down as a favourite when the list came out as I had read the book before it came out here back in 2013 when the book had come out in Inida  here is my review .The book takes the life of the  mother of the poet Dagh , his mother Wazir Khanam life touches many in Mughal indian and we get a slice of the world at this time is this epic novel .We must also mention that it was run close in the shadow jury by Noontide toll  , we just felt this was maybe a book that lasts longer in the readers mind and soul .

have you read any books from the list ? would you like to take part next year?

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Japanese Fiction

Original title 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年
Shikisai o motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, Kare no Junrei no Toshi

Translator Philip Gabriel

Source – Personnel copy

“Fragments came floating into his mind like bits of wood drifting down a stream, and he fished them out and fitted them together.”

Elizabeth Gray Vining an american writer who taught the Japanese Emperor .Source

 

As I posted yesterday the first chance I got after it had come out I couldn’t resist getting the new Haruki Murakami novel ,especially as all I had read about this book made me sure it would be one of his I would really enjoy and I did .As my mum who visited last week remind me I have never been one to wait and mull over the pleasures in life ,no I always ate my pack lunches on school trips early ,ate snack at the cinema before the film had start and now I’m similar with books I really want to read so at Half one this morning I finally closed the cover of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage with a big smile of satisfaction on my face .Now I usually in this opening section mention about the writer as I have reviewed Murakami four times before I feel the need to skip this just mention his books now only need his surname to sell the on the cover and he is one of the few writers in translation that transcends place and nationality like Proust, Tolstoy  ,Camus and Hesse for example where people seem less nervous in trying them out as writers

Something must have happened ,something had taken place while he was away to make them create this distance .Something inapproaite ,and offensive .But what it was – what it could pssibly be – he had no clue

He returns the first summer after college and things have change

Any way on to the book the story is that of Tskuru Tazaki ,he is a 36-year-old salary man ,his job which he loves is visiting and designing stations for the railway system ,which is great for Tsukuru because for as long as he can remember he has always loved train stations .He is single live in a small kondo he inherited and on the whole is and average man just getting through his life .Anyway he meets a women called Sara ,she like him and wants to know more about him and his life anyway we hear the story of the five, so to speak ,this is the story of Tsukuru two boys Akamatsu (red pine ) and Oumi (blue sea ) and two girls Shirane (White root ) and Kurono (Black field ) and of course from the title we know that Tsukuru name isn’t connected to a colour no his means to build which given his job seems very apt .Anyway the five of them are best friends at high school until one day they all say they don’t want to talk or hear from Tsukuru again .This leads Tsukuru to his current lonely life and the move to Tokyo where he can be invisible .Sara listen and sees how this one event set of the following years of his life and his current place in the world and persuades Tsukuru to go back and find this four friends and what had happened to make them cut off all communication all those years ago ! A journey that see him go back to his home town and even to Finland .As he uncovers the past and the lives his former friends have had since the split .

“What exactly do you do in the civil engineering department ? The student asked him .

“I build stations ” Tsukuru replied .

“Station ?”

“Railroad stations .Not tv station or anything .”

“But why railroad stations ?”

“The world needs them ,that’s why “, Tsukuru said ,as it were obvious

Tsukuru had always loved station he sketch and looked at them as a student .

Now I enjoyed Murakami last book but said at the tim e that it felt too Murakami almost as thou he was throwing every trait and trick of his writing into the pot .This has a number of his usual traits but is a lot more straightforward ,the book is really a retelling of a quest novel in the modern age ,Tsukuru is on a quest for the answer to what made his friends so suddenly drop him all those years ago .The other part of the title his years of  pilgrimage refers to a piece of music by Franz Liszt  Années de pèlerinage that one of the girls used to play on the piano ,this tune also is a recurring motif through out the book as we see it crop up in different versions as Tsukuru discovers his past .Another Murakami theme is given a slightly different twist here and that is the love triangle which here becomes a love pentagon ,as there are three boys in the group and two girls and Tsukuru says he has had erotic  dreams about both girls in the past and was attracted to them both for different reasons when they were friends .A return to form for me this book sold a million in its first week in Japan and is very much a book for his target market in Japan the middle-aged Salary worker even the length means it easily can be read on the commutes to work that many salary workers have to make on trains which of course is the last theme of the book ,I’ve heard Murakami talk in the past about his love of trains and railways .I was reminded of Betjamin and his love of Victorian stations and the way that seeped into his poetry ,in this book .

Have you read this or do you intend too ?

ooh I’ve got it and it has stickers in it Murakami love

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I decide to go and but the new hardback of the latest Haruki Murakami novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage ,was delighted to find the mentioned stickers are in this edition ,I’m debating leaving them as they are or using them to decorate the outside of my new laptop when I manage to save up for it later in the year as I think they’d look rather dashing on it myself
I love extra Murakami bits I have the diary from a few years ago and the app they did as well also seen the film of one of the books
Do you collect extra bits connected to writers ?

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Botchan by Natsume Sōseki

Japanese fiction

Orginal title 坊っちゃん

Translator J cohn

Source – Library book

Another for Tony’s January in Japan project and another of those older Japanese writer I hadn’t got too  before now ,so this time it is Natsume Sōseki .He  was a writer from the Meiji period of writing ,he studied both Chinese and British literature .He wrote poems Haiku and Novels .He also left an unfinished book when he died .He is also on the 100 yen note in Japan .

In January of the sixth year after my mother’s death , the old man had a stroke and died ,That april I graduated from a private middle school ,and in June my brother graduated from his business school ,He took a job with some company , and was assigned to their office in Kyushu ,I still had to finish my education in Tokyo .My brother announced that he was going to sell of the house and all our parent processions before heading off to Kyushu .

How Botchan end up as a teacher a lot of bad luck .

Botchan is the name of title character of this book ,we meet him as he is finishing his education .But the path he had in mind is cruelly cut when his parents die and their home is sold by his older brother and he has to take a job as a schoolteacher in the very traditional area of Japan Matsuyama .So he starts to teach maths ,but is drawn into a world of tricks at the hands of the pupils as they see him as an easy target .Add to this a bunch of strange fellow teacher that have a lot of nicknames  which Botchan gave them when he arrived in his new job  they are ,the porcupine ,red shirt and the principal the badger .We see this young man torn between the modern Japan that he left and the old values and customs he is surround with here .Also he faces moral questions as things happen  around him ,as he has been brought up with very strong morals and is finding them challenged .

I got here yesterday .It’s a nothing place .I’m staying in a 15 mat room .I gave them a 5 yen tip and the lady who runs the place bowed down so low she scrapped her forehead on the floor .Last night I couldn’t et to sleep .I dreamed that you were eating those sweets ,bamboo leaf wrappers and all ,I’ll be back next summer .Today I went to school and I gave all the teachers nicknames ,The principal is the badger .The assistant principal is redshirt ,The English teacher is pale squash ,the other maths teacher is the porcupine ,and the art teacher is the hanger -on .I’ll write you more about it later .Goodbye !

Botchan maybe shows his youth with the nicknames after his first day in his new job .

I loved this and can see why that over a century after it came out it is still highly popular in Japan and outside Japan .Botchan is a young man on the brink of manhood  ,he is facing taking the right path for him or for what is expected  for him? He reminded  me a times of a later character from english fiction and that is the Paul pennyfather in Evelyn Waugh’s decline and fall, they share same reason of bad luck to end up being a teacher and both find the school and teachers they are surrounded with very strange at times .But also like Naomi which I reviewed earlier this month it tackles the changing face of Japan the traditional Japanese world and the modern Japanese world .This was also based on the writers own experience he spent three years teaching in the same region as Botchan was a teacher .

Have you read this or any book by Natsume Sōseki

The sea and poison by Shusaku Endo

the sea and poison

The sea and poison by Shusaku Endo

Japanese fiction

Orginal title 海と毒薬

Translator – Michael Gallagher

Source – personnel copy

I’m so happy that I have got round this years Japanese reading month by Tony ,I have finally got to cross of off some of the big names in Japanese fiction ,that I haven’t already read .Shusaku Endo is one of what is known as the third generation of writer from Japan that followed world war two .He is noted for being a catholic writer in Japan ,he worked in a munition factory during world war two .He published his first novel in 1955 ,this was the third book he wrote .

I soon found the wing containing the first surgical department ,where the vivisection had been performed pretending to be someone visiting a patient I climber to the third floor up to the third floor the wig consisted entirely of wards .In the corridors the smell of grime mingled with the permeating odour of disinfectant .

Visiting where the horrors had taken place .

The sea and poison is the story of one doctor  and two other people as he faces the horror of the after effects of what he had done in the war years in a small hospital he worked in .The doctor had been involved in an experiments on the prisoners in his care in particular one american that they do some horrific things to and offer no pain relief .and taking bits out and messing with other bits of the airmen he was meant  to be treating .Haunted by this post war we see it effect on three of the people involved at the time for them unfortunately none of the men they treated this way survived  the treatment .We see the three struggle to deal with the moral dilemmas  this act brought to each of them in civilian life .

“now ,don’t take it like that .this is for your country ‘s sake .They’ve all been condemned to death anyway .This way they can do some good for the advancement of medical science ” Dr Asai gave me all the reasons he didn’t believe himself .

How many people have done acts for just what was said here ?

Well I wish I had reach Endo earlier ,I loved the way this book confronted the past so openly ,to say it was written just twelve years after the war .I also hadn’t fully gather this had happen on the Japanese side in the war ,I knew the Germans did things like this during the war in fact many years ago ,I  worked with a Latvian man who I cared for that had procedures done  similar to the ones in the book ,so at times I did struggle to read the book at times remembering what had happened to the man I looked after ,but I also want the insight into what made people do acts like this .I loved the way he confront Peoples guilt and moral upheavals .Also how refreshing to see it done so soon after the war I struggle to thing of European based books that tackled the subjects so soon after the war .As I said I found the experience describe in the book hard as I kept remember someone I knew but it all so made me gather how lucky he was and also how brave as he made it seem everyday when he once in passing mention what had happened and it wasn’t .

Has a book ever effect you because of some you have known ?

Shadow man Asian

shadow-man-asian-logo-2012

It is our great pleasure to announce the winner of the Shadow Jury’s Man Asian Literary Prize for 2012.

The four-member Shadow Jury has chosen Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil.

Narcopolis

Described variously by the members of the jury as a “strangely compelling” and “utterly, compellingly addictive” novel that “marries a beautiful prose style with some deeply unbeautiful subject matter”, this novel could not be further apart from our winner last year, Please Look After Mother, by Kyung-sook Shin. The fact that such different novels can win the same prize is a testament to the breadth and depth of Asian writing uncovered by the Man Asian Literary Prize. Full reviews of the novel are available at each participating blog.

If Narcopolis wins the Man Asian Literary Prize, it will be the first debut novel to do so under the new rules introduced in 2010.

The Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize Jury was formed in 2010 to promote the Man Asian Literary Prize throughout the world. It comprises four bloggers: Matthew Todd (http://matttodd.wordpress.com), Lisa Hill (http://anzlitlovers.com), Mark Staniforth (http://eleutherophobia.wordpress.com) and Stu Allen (https://winstonsdad.wordpress.com). In its first year, it correctly picked the winner of the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, Please Look After Mother, by Kyung-sook Shin.

The Man Asian Literary Prize began in 2007 as a prize for unpublished manuscripts, though was revamped in 2010 to recognise the best Asian novel each year. The official Man Asian Literary Prize winner for 2012 will be announced in Hong Kong on Thursday 14 March 2013.

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil

Narcopolis

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil

Indian fiction

Source – Library copy

Jeet Thayil is from Kerala in India ,he is the son of a well-known editor .This meant he grew up in Hong-Kong and New york .He has a degree in Fine art ,he has written Poetry ,librettist and now a writer Nacropolis is his Début Novel .The book was shortlist for the Man booker prize this year and also I m reviewing it as the last of this year’s Man Asian short list .The book also recently won the DSC prize for south-east Asian  Literature .

Bombay ,which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face ,is the hero or heroin of this story ,and since I’m the one who’s telling it and you don’t know who I am ,let me say that we’ll get to who of it but not right now ,because now there’s time  enough not to hurry ,to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city .

The opening prologue of the book .

Nacropolis is set in the 70’s and 80’s ,the book is set in a darker and old Bombay ,than I have met in Indian fiction before .This book is a story of drugs and that city how drugs effect the everyday life of a group of people over twenty year .The group we meet are all connected in some way to Rashid’s opium house on a street in Bombay .The people living in this book are the short of mish mash of characters and show that drugs can effect one and all .,Dimple a castrated prostitute who has been at Rashid’s since she was a girl .The book in a way shows her journey and the changing face of drug taking within India from opium to heroin . We also see China a bit as well as one of the regulars is from China and we learn about the communists taking of China in flashback  .Thayil used his own experiences to build this book .This is the story of the real city of Bombay before it changed and became a new city .

I went back the next day and found Rashid in his room ,sitting in his chair by the window with prayer beads in his hands .I asked if he was feeling better .

I’ll never be good or better .I’m past the age of it ,Now there’s only bad or worse

I said I had come to pay my respects

Rashid said ,”I’m an old man . I don’t want talk about the o,ld days ” but he brought it up himself .

The end of the story as Rashid house is gone and the city is changing

I found this book dizzying at times Thayil is a very frank writer ,this isn’t drugs dressed up and beautified ,no Thayil is a former drug addict and has used this book to show the harm drugs do to people .As much as in place it is horrifying in others it is touching it is like watching a car crash in slow motion you want to look away but can’t as you are transfixed by the action .Thayil has done for Indian drug culture and opening it up for what it is ,the same as Irvine Welsh ,William Burroughs ,Robert Bolano and numerous other writers ,the more you read about drug taking you see that if it Edinburgh ,,Mexico city or Bombay the fallout from taking drugs is just the same .Thayil,has said in interview he wants this to be a view of addicts that makes people have empathy with them for being real people .

Have you read this book ?

What did you think of the books on this years Man Asian shortlist ?

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

silent_house

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish Fiction

Original title Sessiz Ev

Translator Robert Finn

Source – Personnel copy

Well I ve read four Pamuk Novels before this one and as is the case in the world of translation ,I’ve read them out-of-order of publications in Turkish I start with my name is read followed by Snow then Back to an earlier book Whit Castle ,then his latest the Museum of Innocence.Now this has arrived in English and was the second novel written by Orhan Pamuk , but is the ninth to be published in English and the first to be translated by Robert Finn .I have previously mention a lot about Pamuk in the other books I reviewed ,he is Turkeys best known writer and has won the Nobel prize for literature .This book is a double hit for me as it is the fourth from the Man Asian Short-list I ‘ve read but also the tenth book I ve reviewed from this year’s independent foreign fiction prize .

But tomorrow they’ll come and I’ll think again . Hello ,hello how are you ,they’ll kiss my hand ,many happy returns ,how are you ,Grandmother ,how are you ,how are you , Grandmother ? I’ll take a look at them .Don’t all talk at once ,come here let me have a look at you ,come close ,tell me what you have been doing ? I know I’ll be asking to be fooled and I’ll listen blankly to a few words of description!

Fatima the night before the hoards descend on here

So Silent House well the title is a bit of joke because this is anything but a book about silence or a silent house .The book is set in the early eighties a turbulent time in Turkey and we are with Fatima and yes at start as she await the hoards to descend (her extended family of grandchildren to arrive for the summer ).The family arrive one by one and each member of the family is like a jigsaw piece as they arrive we learn a bit more about the family ,but also about turkey as a whole as each one of her grandchildren represent a different face of turkey Faruk is the idealist a troubled historian ,the sister Nilgun that is part of a new elite in turkey with money ,a drop-out ,a right-winger ,As they arrive the hose becomes very vocal and the house becomes a micro version of The turkey of the time .The book is set in 1980 just a coup is in the offering .

It’s well after midnight ,but I can still hear them moving about what could they be doing down there ,why don’t they go to sleep and leave me the silent night ? I get out of bed ,walk over to the window ,and look down :Recap’s ;light is still on ,lighting up the garden:what are you doing there ,dwarf ? It’s frighting ! he’s so sneaky ,that one every once in a while I catch him giving me a look ,and I realize he notices everything about me , watching the smallest gestures ,

The house is loud and what does Recap the dwarf know ?

Where does this lie in the body of Pamuk’s work ,well it is very different as one would imagine with a second novel .The book is a book of voices but also a clever way of discussing the turkey of the time without Pamuk using his own voice as he uses the myriad of character in this book to show the troubles with in his own country ,but also to show how these troubles affect people on a personal every day level .The children also in there own ways show how politics effect people in different way , burying your head in the bottle ,being to rich too notice troubles ,joining a gang of fascists and following the latest causes .Then there is Fatima her self the sort of women that runs a large family in her ninties but has the respect of all and she also has a dwarf servant Recap .I did enjoy this more than I have recent Pamuk novels .Now the question is would this have been better published at the time ,part of me thinks yes then another part thinks it is still happening turkey is still a country with many faces and problems of its own and the book still shows how far they have come and how far they have to go .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Orhan Pamuk ? mine is my name is red

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

the briefcase

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese fiction

Original title – Sensei no Kaban

Translator Alison Martin Powell

Source – personnel copy

Well the last of the Japanese books for this month and it is one from this years Man Asian prize shortlist .Tony asked us all to post at the end of the month thankfully my copy arrived yesterday ,so I managed to read it overnight .Hiromi Kawakami is a graduate of Ochanomizu women’s college ,she published her first book in 1980 ,with her previous books she has won a number of prizes .This book won the prestigious Tanizaki prize in 2001 previous winners include Ryu Murakami ,Yoko Ogawa and Kenzaburo Oe .

His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto ,but I called him “Sensei “not “Mr ” or “Sir ” just ” Sensei ”

He was my Japanese teacher in High school .He wasn’t my homeroom teacher ,and Japanese class didn’t interest me much ,so I didn’t really remember him .Since graduation ,I hadn’t seen him for quite a while

Tsukiko saying why she calls him Sensei at the start of the book

The Briefcase or bag of Sensei is a love story .It was published in its native Japan as a serial so its chapters are short and tend to leave you wanting to read the next chapter .The story is the story of The sensei (Japanese for teacher ) and Tsukiko a former pupil of the Sensei who is now in her thirties ,the sensei is retired .The pair meet in a traditional Japanese bar .As the relation ship develops you see them doing many things such as watching the cherry blossom falling of the trees ,picking mushrooms and visiting an Island for a weekend away .This being Japan this very unusual relationship isn’t all about your full-blown passion, no it is more two lonely souls in the sea that is Tokyo that have end up being drawn together ,The sensei is like you would expect a very quiet man but he has the air of some one deep in thought and serious with it .Tsukiko is hard to read but he admiration and love for this older man seems unwavering and maybe you feel she has had her heart-broken in the past by a younger man .

“Sensei ,your is the special ,right ? ”

“that’s what they call it ”

“how is it different from the regular ”

We both bent our heads and examined the two boxed lunches .

“There doesn’t seem to be much difference at all” the Sensei said Amiably

They have lunch and compare lunches a humorousness moment .

 

This is a book that has been made into a Japanese tv series and a stage show A quick search of the internet ,I found a clip showing pics from the stage show .I was reminded of a UK TV series called may to December that was shown in the uk when I was growing up it involved a couple of similar age gap to the couple in the briefcase and actually similar characters to this book .The action was the same on the surface we seem different cultures but as may to December showed it was all about the being together more than the sex and the way the relationship develop was so well done by Kawakami like a time elapse picture capture the relationship stage by stage .Some wonderful moments of humur Tsukiko buying a grater for sensei when it appeared they’d fallen out or compare her normal packed lunch brought from the shop to his special of the same dish and deciding they were actually the same .The fact it was as a serial works well for this story I felt and didn’t feel uneven as sometimes novels made up of serial parts can.

Have you read this book ?

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Japanese fiction

Original title – collected from various stories she has written .

Translator – Stephen Snyder

Source – Review Copy

I ve often seen Yoko Ogawa name mention and her books reviewed around the internet and had ordered Hotel Iris from the library for Tony’s January in Japan ,when this fell through my letter box so I decide to read this as I don’t get through many short story collections so this being described as dark and like classic poetry collections I decide to give it a whirl .Yoko Ogawa  grew up in a japanese christian family her grandfather was a teacher ,she grew ,loving literature in particular The diary of Anne Frank ,she then began working  and at 26 published her first book .She has written over twenty books over the last twenty five years .

He died twelve years ago .Suffocated in an abandoned refrigerator left in a vacant lot .When I first saw him ,I didn’t think he was dead.I thought he was just ashamed to look me in the eye because he had stayed away from home for three days .

The two women talk in the bakers in the story Afternoon at the bakery

So to revenge when I opened and read through the title poison plants ,welcome to the museum of torture ,I knew I was on to a strange collection so we open on the first story a mother is at a baker’s shop we meet two women and it turns out one is buying a cake for a son that had died many years ago as the chat away about what they’re doing in the bakery  .As you go through the stories we  start to see links through out ,elsewhere we have a pair of staff whose job is  collecting lab coats at a hospital then ,we see some at the same hospital  someone doing heart surgery in one of  the said  lab coat .The man who works at the strange Museum of torture happens to turn up in the next story doing a completely different job .

she rubbed her cheek against the bundle ;

“Do they have any of your books here ?” I asked .

“They do ” she said ,standing up and going to one of the  shelves .

” This is mine – one that managed to escape the burglar ” she said handing it to me .

Afternoon at the bakery .The book was slender ,and as tattered as her bundle .

The title of another story appears as a book in the story Tomatoes and the full moon

This collection is rather well done .The stories all tend to be  on the strange and unusual  side ,the collection , I was reminded me most of were the stories of Roald Dahl ,the ones that got made into tales of unexpected because a lot of these stories had that feel of weird glances into people’s lives and meeting  odd characters such as  the landlady that grows strange human hand shaped carrots in her garden for example .Another collection of short stories  I was reminded of was the collection by Dan Rhodes Timoleon Vieta come home ,which had a recurring motif through out its stories is that of the dog Timoloen vieta  appearing at some point during the story .Here the motif isn’t so clear but is there and is almost like the Japanese puzzle box my grandparents had where you had push this panel ,move this bit to finally open the box ,here there is a little bit of the previous story that appears in the next story and as you go along you see some other you have to go back and discover .Each story would make a great stand alone this is one of those collections where there is no weak link .The book comes out tomorrow in the uk .

Do you have a favourite collection of short stories from Asia ?

 

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