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A New Beginning for Dedalus

It is hard to think of a new beginning for a publishing company founded thirty-six years ago and with its original founders still in place but that what is happening for Dedalus.
At the beginning of a new year a new publisher will be born, Young Dedalus. It begins as an imprint of the existing company but the plan is to develop as a freestanding publisher with a full range of titles designed for young readers between 9 and 13 years of age. The first 4 titles are all translations as that is what we primarily do but our intention is to expand and publish original English-language fiction and classics both in translation and written in English. We want to offer our young readers exciting, strong narratives which will take them from reading heavily illustrated books to their teenage years. Like all high-quality fiction our books will also appeal to readers of all ages.
Young Dedalus will also have its own publisher, Timothy Lane, who will develop and nurture this new imprint, as it carves out its place in the publishing world. Timothy was not born when Dedalus began but grew up with a publishing company at home and shares the enthusiasm of his parents for literature and the printed word. He is Dedalus’ Europe Editor and now has the opportunity to create a publishing company to reflect his passion for children’s fiction and build on his kaleidoscopic knowledge.
In January we begin with Nobody Can Stop Don Carlo by Oliver Scherz, translated from German by Deirdre McMahon and The Girl from the Sea and other stories by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, translated from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson. A month later they will be followed by The Books that Devoured my Father by the Portuguese author Afonso Cruz and Memoirs of a Basque Cow by the Basque author Bernardo Atxaga, both translated by Margaret Jull Costa.
A great beginning for a new publishing company!

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Timothy Lane’s blog on The Illustrious House of Ramires Eca de Queiroz

A nobleman in his slippers wearing a light linen jacket over his pink cotton shirt sits in the library of his manor house, he is scratching his head with his quill looking down forlornly at the sheet of foolscap paper in front of him. His name is Goncalo Mendes Ramires, heir to the most distinguished noble family in Portugal, older than the line of the King of Portugal and Portugal itself. At a table stacked with thick volumes of genealogical history, Bluteau’s Portuguese and Latin Vocabulary and the medieval romances of Walter Scott, Goncalo is attempting to write a historical novel inspired by his glorious ancestors.

He is the last of his line, a line that includes crusaders and conquistadors, warriors who invaded Castile, a vagabond who topped a gambler’s life with the command of a pirate ship, and countless companions and confidantes of the Kings of Portugal. In more recent generations Ramires’ men had been patrons of the arts and vying for ministerial positions, Goncalo’s own father is described as ‘wearing out his shoe leather going up and down the steps of various ministries and of the Mortgage Bank’, until finally a minister had appointed him the Governor of Oliveira, not due to his talent we are told, but because that particular minister found his favourite mistress was rather keen on Goncalo’s father.

Our Goncalo in his time at university has been failing his exams but developing his literary ambitions, partly inspired by another student Castanheiro who has founded a patriotic journal with the aim of reawakening a sense of the ‘beauty, grandeur and glory of Portugal’. Submitting his first literary effort to the Patriot’s Club he is hailed by his small peer group as ‘our Walter Scott’. As he toasts his friends over glasses of wine, he announces a far more ambitious literary work, a two-part historical epic inspired by his own family lore.

After Castanheiro’s graduation the Patriot’s club dwindles, and Goncalo in grieving for his recently deceased father has lost much of his flamboyance and concern for grand political matters. Upon graduation Goncalo heads for Lisbon to settle a number of mortgages on family estates and to make the acquaintances of important political figures. Meeting Castanheiro after a long separation he finds the poetic patriot still as passionate as ever. He enquires after the mooted two- volume novel Goncalo had planned and on hearing the lack of progression, assumes his friend has lost heart. Fired afresh by this meeting Goncalo returns to his hotel and vows to return to the family homestead and accomplish something towards his literary and political ambitions, even if now he sets himself the far more manageable goal of writing a novella. Making the task far less troubling for the indolent and ease-loving side of Goncalo’s temperament an uncle had previously completed a thoroughly researched poem on the Ramires’ family. Using the poem as his reference point, he can build a literary career and bolster his political ambitions, just when a patriotic advocate from an exulted and distinguished family is most needed.

So we meet the thirty year old aristocratic bachelor trying, dawdling, failing, procrastinating and plagiarising his way towards the writing of a work that can’t possibly fulfil all his quixotic desires. Struggling to write, more indebted than his ancestors, reluctant to pursue a proper relationship with any interested women, stung by local gossips, and even facing the humiliating assaults of a fair-haired local farmer who delights in tormenting him, there is a strong sense about Goncalo’s life, about his family’s status, that the best days are in the past. When one factors in that Goncalo is in part a personification of Portugal itself, one sees that Eca de Queiroz’s sympathetic portrait of the likeable, but weak Goncalo overshadowed by a family past he can’t possibly live up to, or even keep going, is a commentary upon a country that is struggling to cope with its diminished status.

The contrast between Goncalo and the warlike ancestors who appear in his uncle’s poem and his novella could not be more striking. Aristocracy is of course a sense of distinction and greater worth predicated on descent from an exulted past ancestor. Something of its innate silliness can be gaged by considering that if many modern aristocrats could actually meet their most famous ancient ancestors, they would most likely find them uncivilised, bellicose and vulgar, little different from their underlings in terms of culture, and raised above them chiefly by might. The warriors of the medieval period would not only be radically different from their descendants, they would most likely think their descendants pitiful weaklings. Furthermore, the utterly alien nature of the past and its priorities can cause discomfort, there is a natural desire to soften the rough edges, and place the great feats of the past within a narrative framework that naturally leads to us and all we value in the present and hope to perpetuate. That people from previous generations had the same naive views of the past and the present is rarely considered.

Despite being no great intellectual Goncalo is sufficiently aware of these ironies. And part of the reason he becomes such a likeable character is that he has such straightforward desires for his life and his failings have little harmful effect on anyone but himself. He is a good friend who is well liked by his peers, he is generous and full of genuine warm feeling to those who work on his estates, he loves his sister and is upset at gossips who are saying she has been unfaithful with a man far more dashing than her husband, and he is unwilling to abandon his beliefs to achieve political advancement. He would simply like to be a worthy figure in his family line, sitting proudly in the glow of a romanticised past, in a proud and confident nation.

Of all the prolific great nineteenth century novelists none have had quite the baffling neglect in the English-speaking world as Eca de Queiroz. Perhaps his extensive stay in England as Portuguese consul and the frequent cynicism and ironic humour at the expense of his host nation may have played some part, but in all of his writings on England their runs a vein of humour and grudging appreciation – describing the country as probably the foremost thinking nation, praising the tradition of Christmas stories for children – to his observations that is far from the much stronger streak of self-depreciation that Orwell was later to remark as running through the English intellectual class. And for all his criticism he spent fifteen years in the country and wrote many of his greatest masterpieces here, including his most celebrated work, The Maias, in Bristol. Perhaps sometimes the best inspirations are also the sharpest provocations.

Whatever his writings on England, I think the best way to make the case for Queiroz is to let a contemporary of his speak for him, and who better than Emile Zola, who said ‘Queiroz is far greater than my own dear master, Flaubert.’

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Christmas Reading from Peter Owen Publishers

Panorama by Dušan Šarotar, translated by Rawley Grau

Dušan Šarotar takes the reader on a deeply reflective yet kaleidoscopic journey from northern to southern Europe. In a manner that invokes the writings of W.G. Sebald, Šarotar supplements the narrative with photographs, which help to blur the lines between fiction and journalism. The writer’s experience of landscape is bound up in a personal yet elusive search for self-discovery, as he and a diverse group of international fellow travellers relate in their individual and distinctive voices their unique stories and their common quest for somewhere they might call home.

‘The hydraulic ebb and flow of Panorama’s sentence waves subsumes the role of narration … Giving oneself to these meditative rhythms represents the true depth and joy of this novel – and it is a spiritual joy.’ – Andrew Singer, World Literature Today

‘This is not a novel in which anything happens; it has all happened already, catastrophically, and the condition of exile is the only place from which one can achieve peace or perspective. This is what I think this marvellous book is telling us.’ – Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘Some literature defies simple description. Case in point, Panorama, by Slovenian poet and writer Dušan Šarotar. One might be inclined to define it as a meditation within a travelogue within a novel. Or perhaps you would prefer to rearrange those terms, it probably wouldn’t matter, because in spite of its subtitle, A Narrative about the Course of Events, Panorama stands at a curious angle to space and time. It is a novel of remembering, of telling and retelling, narratives within narratives, bound together by a coarse thread of repeating themes that are at once timeless and timely.’ – Joseph Schreiber, Numéro Cinq

The House of Remembering and Forgetting by Filip David, translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić

Young Albert Weiss was spared the horrors of Auschwitz when his parents threw him and his brother from the transport train. Years later, with the help of other survivors of the holocaust, he explores the myriad ways of confronting not just the evil that robbed him of his childhood, but the guilt he feels for having lost his brother on that wintry night.

‘While warning us of the consequences of the choice between what to remember and what to forget, David suggests a new dialogue between memory and forgetfulness, a need for a new language for understanding evil.’ – World Literature Today

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Andrew Crumey reflects on getting a degree and on writing

This week at Northumbria University it was graduation day, or congregation as we like to call it. Our chancellor, paralympian champion Tanni Grey-Thompson, was handing out the symbolic scrolls, with an honorary one going to historian David Olusoga. Both gave eloquent and uplifting speeches, much like ones heard at similar ceremonies around the world. Easy in fact to be cynical about wise words from the great and good if you happen to be a young graduate fidgeting in fancy dress, eager to get out and throw your mortarboard in the air, less certain what will happen after that. For the parents in the audience, as I know from experience, the encomiums sound different; fitting tribute to one’s offspring and a welcome signal that they’re now on their way to, well, something less expensive. My presence on this occasion, though, was for a different reason; not as graduate or guest, but as creative writing PhD supervisor. Beside me in the front row was novelist John Schoneboom, whom I was to accompany onstage as he was awarded his degree. It was a truly happy and proud moment.
John initially came to Northumbria as an MA student in creative writing. He was working on a novel – surreal, off-beat, hilarious – from which it was immediately apparent that here was a very special voice and distinctive talent. I suggested that when he completed the novel he should send it to Dedalus; he did and in 2014 Fontoon was published. Like most works of literary fiction it did little to shake the dogmatic slumber of mass consciousness or – to put it another way – make either John or Dedalus rich. That’s not why we do what we do. John had stuck his first flag into the great pimply backside of posterity, and now he’d better try and come up with another.
This was what he worked on as a PhD student at Northumbria. His thesis was to consist of a 70,000-word novel and 30,000-word critical commentary, written under the mentorship of myself and co-supervisor Michael Cawood Green. Think of it like Andy Murray coached by Ivan Lendl; Italo Svevo and James Joyce; Steve Brookstein and Simon Cowell – heck, do I need to go on?
What I’m saying – a lot less well than Baroness Tanni or Dr David – is how genuinely satisfying it is to see the achievement of people to whom you’ve given a little help, occasionally a little push, hopefully some encouragement and maybe even, who knows, a morsel of inspiration. Having in the last quarter of a century made my own pinpricks on the bum of history – The Great Chain of Unbeing is the latest – I draw hope from those still in the antemeridian of their career. To John I say well done, and to all my students I say – keep writing!

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One poet reflects on another poet’s work

Jenna Clake was born in Staffordshire in 1992. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Birmingham, where her research focused on the Feminine and Feminist Absurd in twenty-first century British and American poetry. Jenna’s poetry has appeared in Poems in Which, The Bohemyth, Oxford Poetry, and more. Fortune Cooke is her debut collection. She has this to say on the poetry of Gaia Holmes, whose third collection of poetry is called Where the Road Runs Out.

‘Gaia Holmes’s poems are meditations on evening fires, familial duty, where someone is ‘definitely dying’, where the outside comes in, the land and the natural world become an integral part of self, community and understanding grief. These poems made me light a candle, find another blanket, crave fresh bread, and send thoughts to my loved ones many miles away.’

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Sophie Hughes discusses what drew her to Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder

Sophie Hughes discusses what drew her to Alia Trabucco Zerán’s The Remainder

The Remainder was recommended to me by the writer Carlos Fonseca, who urged me to read ‘one of his favourite books of 2016,’ saying: ‘I really think you’re going like this.’ He was right. Every now and then a book makes my fingers itch to translate it from the very first pages. Thomas Bernhard, Vladimir Nabokov, and Natalia Ginsburg have this effect (alas, they are already expertly translated … what’s more, from languages I don’t speak …). Other just as brilliant writers don’t. Probably, it boils down to how clearly you hear their characters’ or narrators’ voices, and I suppose translator–author chemistry is as unpredictable as that between two strangers across a crowded bar.

To me as a translator, Alia Trabucco Zerán’s novel presents several wonderful challenges, but none more irresistible than the voice presented in this excerpt: that of Felipe. Felipe and Iquela (who narrates other chapters) are twentysomething-year-old friends living in modern-day Santiago and plagued by the shadows that Chile’s military dictatorship has cast over their lives. The neurotic Felipe aspires to a perfect number, a sum that might give him closure after his father’s ‘disappearance,’ helping him to answer a pivotal question prompted by Pinochet’s infamous torture mechanism: ‘How do we square the number of dead with the number of graves?’ Felipe sets himself the task of achieving that number, that perfect zero, convinced that his particular brand of morbid math will close the book on his grief. Prowling the streets of Santiago in this extract, this disturbed young man begins an alternative death toll to the official count.

Trabucco Zerán’s language and imaginative technique are at times virtuosic. The musicality and idiosyncrasies in the original Castilian are not arbitrary, but rather are symptoms of her characters’ struggles to find their voices, and they present the translator with brilliant linguistic problems. Beyond the aesthetic impulses that led me to want to translate The Remainder, I am interested in literature that interrogates the suitability of the novel form to recount traumatic national pasts in Latin America.

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One Lange leads to another: on finding and translating Norah Lange’s People in the Room Charlotte Whittle

When I was doing graduate work in Hispanic Studies, I met and became friends with a writer whose name was Nora Lange. Nora Lange had just moved into an apartment with some upstairs neighbors from Argentina, who were delighted to be living above someone called Nora Lange, and asked her if she was familiar with the work of the Argentinean writer, Norah Lange. When Nora Lange asked me about Norah Lange, I had never heard of her, but I was intrigued, since as a student of literature in Spanish, I was all too aware of how male dominated the Hispanic literary canon can often seem. I was even more intrigued when I began to learn of Norah Lange’s background: she had been closely associated with a number of major male writers, including Borges and Girondo, both of whom I’d read, without ever coming across the woman who was allegedly at the heart of their rivalry. I remember asking my advisor at the time – a scholar of Latin American literature – about her, and his reply that she had been “totally forgotten.” This was soon after Edwin Williamson’s biography of Borges had been published, in which Norah is described as a flame-haired Scandinavian beauty who tormented the young Borges and went on to “inspire” some of his most essential writings. But there was no exploration of Norah’s work. Indeed, everywhere I looked I found her referred to as the “Muse of the Avant Garde,” rather than as a significant writer. Nora Lange and I began to co-translate some of Norah’s early poems, written in the Ultraísta mode championed and later abandoned by Borges, who wrote a patronizing prologue to Norah’s first book. But it was on a trip to Buenos Aires a few years ago that I was able, with some difficulty, to find Norah Lange’s complete works (put out in 2005-6), and began to be seduced by her unique authorial gaze and her eccentric prose. I came to realize that in Argentine literary mythology, Lange is a figure familiar to many, but read by few, and I was truly surprised she hadn’t been translated. Personas en la sala/People in the Room is the first novel I tackled (and the first one finished!); I began translating the first few chapters in my spare time while I was teaching Spanish, and, as an early subscriber and fan of And Other Stories, it occurred to me that And Other Stories might be interested in Lange’s writing, so I pitched it, and here we are.

One of the biggest challenges has been teasing out the subtle meanings from long, labyrinthine sentences, and resisting the temptation to break them into sections to make them more “manageable.” I think the endless layering of clauses and the twists and turns of a sentence that goes on for many lines really are part of Lange’s style, even though, in general, sentences can be longer in Spanish and are often shortened in English. The challenge has been to preserve some of the eccentricities of the prose, without sacrificing clarity. When Lange writes something like, “on the verge/at the edge of night time,” or “on the verge of lightning,” (al borde le la noche, etc.), it’s tempting to think that, since we wouldn’t say that in English, we should find another solution. But such usages are unusual and unexpected in Spanish, so to respect the uniqueness of her style I often felt I was treading a thin line between readability and respect for eccentricity. But the difficulty of this book has also been what has made it pleasurable and rewarding.

People in the Room is a profoundly visual novel. Often while translating I tried to put myself in the place of the voyeur, to see what she was seeing, while also trying to see her as she is watching. As Carola Moreno writes, there are two visual layers at work: “Lange manages to transform the reader into a spy of the voyeur.”

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Bluemoose Christmas Reading

RAISING SPARKS by Ariel Kahn
Raising Sparks is a magical-realist story set in Modern Israel. It reveals the hidden worlds, shared histories and unknown stories of the modern Middle East.
The story emanated from the tragedy of Ariel’s two close friends being killed in a bus explosion in the first intifada in Jerusalem where Ariel was studying.
Ariel started the first Arab-Israeli book club. The book club was re-launched on 26th September at Daunts Hampstead.
As Leone Ross says. ‘At the heart of this story is female rebellion: a young woman running towards her future, making her own rules.’
Malka Sabbatto is a young woman who flees the confines of her traditional family in Jerusalem, followed by Moshe, a Russian immigrant and her father’s top student. After falling in with a sinister cult in Safed she escapes to Jaffa where she starts to build a new life under the wing of an Arab chef. When she feels she has finally found contentment, a family tragedy forces her to return to Jerusalem.
Debut novelist, Ariel Kahn is a prize-winning writer and academic. He initially trained to be a rabbi in Israel, Ariel has won the Bloomsbury New Voices competition, the London Writing Competition.
He currently lives in North London with his partner and two children.

THE GALLOWS POLE by Benjamin Myers
An England divided. From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history. They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is ‘clipping’ – the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death. A charismatic leader, Hartley cares for the poor and uses violence and intimidation against his opponents. He is also prone to self-delusion and strange visions of mythical creatures. When excise officer William Deighton vows to bring down the Coiners and one of their own becomes turncoat, Hartley’s empire begins to crumble. With the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, the fate of his empire is under threat. Forensically assembled from historical accounts and legal documents, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance that combines poetry, landscape, crime and historical fiction, whose themes continue to resonate. Here is a rarely-told alternative history of the North.

http://www.walterscottprize.co.uk/benjamin-myers-wins-2018-walter-scott-prize/
“Powerful, visceral writing, historical fiction at its best. Benjamin Myers is one to watch.”
– Pat Barker;
“A phenomenal and highly energised novel.’ Sebastian Barry;
“From the half-forgotten history of northern working men on the brink of the Industrial Revolution, Myers has unearthed a powerful story which he tells with great vigour.” – The Sunday Times;

“This powerful novel is as darkly lovely as Emily Bronte’s work” – Joanne Harris;
“A brilliant, extraordinary book.” – Mary Anne Hobbs, 6 Music;
“A roaring furnace of a novel. In telling a big story about a small place, Benjamin Myers portrays social upheavals which have a sharp contemporary echo, as well as bringing to light a little-known and fascinating fragment of rural English history…he meets the challenge for every author of historical fiction – bringing alive the past and speaking forcefully to the readers of today” – Judges – WALTER SCOTT Prize 2018.

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Christmas Reading from Bitter Lemon

The Cold Summer by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Howard Curtis.
Do we need another mafia story? There are plenty of them, in fiction, film, and TV, portraying mafia families in the United States and Italy, and in other countries infected by organised crime. But Gianrico Carofiglio offers an unusually detailed and fascinating portrait, far beyond the clichés of crime families and godfathers, in his new The Cold Summer, along with a contrasting portrait of how the criminal organisation and the police define and control reality. The complex structure of Carofiglio’s narrative, with multiple structural and social parallels at the local and national level, contrasting criminal and civil worlds, and personal events in the lives of the characters, serves to reinforce the emphasis of the novel on the crucial role of structure in human life. But it is ultimately the ethical and sometimes contemplative Fenoglio who holds the whole novel together. His humanity holds out hope for some respite from the violence and corruption that lie behind all the story’s events. As he himself says of his role, what he does (and who he is) “gives meaning to chaos.”

The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and other stories by Teresa Solana, translated by Peter Bush.
Our best title ever? Solana’s love of surrealism and black humour shines through in her novels, but these short stories show her true strengths. In the title story, a prehistoric detective is asked to investigate a triple-murder which is threatening to disrupt cave life. He becomes not only the world’s first detective, but also the first religious charlatan. He might even consider inventing psychoanalysis – after all, it’s not like he has anything better to do. The second collection in this volume contains stories representing a mosaic of Barcelona as a city of contrasts, hustlers and low level criminals, bending the law not just to survive, but to live large and keep boredom at bay.

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Dedalus Christmas Reading, The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi, translated by Judith Landry

Why is The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi such a great book and should be on everyone’s must read list?
First, it is a riveting story telling 100 years of Italian history by following the lives of a family of northern peasants transplanted to the recently drained Pontine marshes to fulfil a grandiose scheme by Mussolini.
Secondly, the characters and the family dynamic are engrossing. We soon care about them and the minutiae of their lives. Mussolini is a major character in the novel and for the most part is sympathetically treated although his flaws and the disastrous effect he had on Italy is there for all to see. Contemporary events flash through the book and the hardship and misery of earlier periods are also seen against the background of modern prosperity. The heroes and heroines of this novel come from the extended Peruzzi family.
Thirdly and above all, the reader feels he is eavesdropping a private Italian conversation and in doing so learning what it is to be an Italian and getting to the heart of this nation. The narrative voice isn’t lost in the English translation, Judith Landry’s translation is pitch perfect, so much so it reads as if the book was written in English.
The great Italian novels for me are I Malavoglia(The House by the Medlar Tree) by Verga, The Leopard by Lampedusa and The Mussolini Canal by Pennacchi. These are the three narratives which use the family to tell Italy’s story and document the state of the nation during periods of great social change. They are novels which engage both the mind and the heart and in doing so stay forever in the reader’s mind.
The Mussolini Canal sold more than 400,000 copies in Italy and has been widely translated. In the UK it has received universal praise and I will end with Margaret Drabble’s appraisal in the Times Literary Supplement.
‘The Mussolini Canal by Antonio Pennacchi is an epic account of the rise of Fascism. It’s the story of the (fictitious) Peruzzi clan of sharecroppers, moved from their native north to the malaria-ridden Pontine Marshes for the building of the canal and the New Town of Littoria. It mingles family legend and up-to-date political commentary with personal appearances from Edmondo Rossoni and Mussolini, and takes us through Italy’s Imperium and the campaign in Ethiopia to the Anzio landings. The complex chronology and the demotic and combative narrative voice (of a young Peruzzi descendant) are imaginatively handled by the translator, Judith Landry, and the novel presents us with a whole new landscape, complete with the kiwi fruits and eucalyptus that thrived in the reclaimed land. Better than any guidebook, it explains how and at what cost Mussolini succeeded where Romans, popes and emperors failed. A challenging but very illuminating read.
Margaret Drabble in Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement

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