It was sort of like the Tammany Hall era New York City and earlier but with automatic weapons and third world living conditions. A break in writing the review came here for a couple of weeks… This has been a tough review to get going with. I loved the book. Where in his previous novel the violence that comes is of a revolutionary kind that is masked in the ideals of liberation for the slave population, here the violence initially stems from the desire for peace.
The protagonists of this story are mostly people who feed off of a non-peaceful state, and how profit nicely through the suffering the destruction of others. Sitting in the middle of this book is someone whose music has never brought me any joy, Bob Marley. I would definitely recommend picking this book up. It never looks away from the ugly side. Possibly the best of View all 7 comments.
Meh still alive, y'hear? Dem try an' try hard teh bus' me up, eh. Nasty political JLP and PNP crammin' dey rassclat dicks up meh pom pom an' use me hard like some cokehead prostitute dey plant at de street corner, even dey bloodclat corrupt police make papapapapapa! Tink we Jammin in the Name of the Lord when is the gun runnin' devils killin' we. When you try dat Godfadder shit on de Singer it juss backfire on you r'ass. De Positive Vibration heal meh a little but meh still in danger all de same. Don't gain the world and lose your soul. Wisdom is better than silver and gold.
Meh can't truss dem stinkin' Dons, not a shot in hell meh tink dey gwan protect me. Jamdown in a bad, bad way like Armageddon arrive. Meh life blood gushing outta me, bleeding oceans all the way 'cross to America. I shame, so shame. Meh own pickneys dem leave me to rot, but no, meh can't blame some dem neither. Like Marlon tell it true so. Him one o' me pickney dat got away an' me even tink he gwan win that prize, ire. Bombaclat, when all dis savagery 'pon me gwan stop?
Dis wise Buffalo Soldier from Trench Town him had a message before him dead so young, him say: Don't give up the fight. Get up, stand up, Life is your right. Meh have a right, a right to equality and humanity; gwan fight hard like rahtid to stay alive an' save meh soul. Meh name Jamaica, see? View all 19 comments. Sep 12, Darwin8u rated it it was amazing Shelves: Death is not a soul catcher or a spirit, it's a wind with no warmth, a crawling sickness.
Anyway, this novel seemed to grab me and I didn't want to let it go. There was power and pull in this novel. It attracted and repelled me at the same time. I wanted to read it, but I didn't want to finish. Just as I would fall into the mix of the dialogue, I would be pushed back out. It wasn't easy and wasn't always fun, but it was constantly amazing. It really did, emotionally, feel like I was reading one of Ellroy's best novels. This was also a master juggling a bunch of themes and textual ideas.
James framed this twisting story of violence, place, race, poverty, power, drugs, sex, language, and death in a funky way but not too funky and I'm not going to give it away. Constantly risking absurdity and death whenever he performs above the heads of his audience And he tends to hit most of his marks, and the ones he doesn't hit perfectly can also be excused because of the difficulty of what he is trying to pull of.
This wasn't a perfect novel, but it was a perfect thrill. View all 14 comments. And obviously, he can write about Jamaica with authority, as well as about Jamaicans in New York City. So this is a pretty amazing book. It's really well written and packed with action and surprises. It's not for the faint of heart.
There's a lot of violence, which escalates in brutality towards the end. I was able to deal with it, because it was contextual. I mean, the book is about Jamaican drug gangs and the title is A Brief History of Seven Killings , so of course there is a lot of violence. It didn't feel like it was violence for it's own sake, or that it was being savored, as in I Am Pilgrim , which I couldn't even bring myself to finish. There's also lots of obscene language, much of it in Jamaican patois. I was delighted to learn how to curse in Jamaican! There are also a few sex scenes, most of them depicting gay male sex.
So if any of this type of thing bothers you, you'll want to skip this book. But then you'd be missing a very absorbing novel. In spite of the title, it's not "brief". It's quite long, more than six hundred pages, but given its scope the length feels organic. Although a Jamaican character makes fun of a white character who says something similar, I've got to say that the language the Jamaicans use--even when they "chat bad" or speak crudely, is pure poetry. It's not just the lilting Jamaican accent, but also their distinctive use of words that makes it so.
The sprawling story has several timelines and locations, and a large and varying cast of characters. There's even a ghost, Sir Arthur George Jennings, a fictitious murdered white Jamaican politician, who reappears at various points in the story. There are lots of point of view narrators, too many to list. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character. But that only becomes clear as one reads on, as we aren't directly told about her name changes; the reader has to figure it out hide spoiler ] Marley is depicted as a man of great vision, but also a human with his faults and failings.
I thought James' view of Bob Marley was pretty balanced. He didn't deify the man, while at the same time treating him with great respect. He also sprinkles excerpts from Marley's songs throughout the text, so it helps if you are familiar with Bob Marley's lyrics. Marley is not one of the novel's narrators, and thus, his actions and speech are always related third hand by others. So at the same time, he is the central character and a very peripheral one.
I loved the varying points of view and the distinctive voices of the different characters. The first two sections of the novel, "Original Rockers", December 2, , and "Ambush in the Night", December 3, , take place largely in Kingston, Jamaica. A lot although not all of these sections centers around the escalating gang violence in Kingston much of it because of alliances with conflicting political parties, the conservative JLP or Jamaican Labor Party and the Socialist PNP or People's National Party and a failed assasination attempt on Marley's life he is referred to only as "The Singer", but it's pretty clear it's Bob Marley, the international Jamaican reggae star.
The assasination attempt really happened, and it's very possible the CIA was involved. A group of gunmen attacked the Marley compound on Hope road, but no one was killed, although several in Marley's party, including his manager, were injured. However, Bob Marley and the Wailers played the big peace concert, Smile Jamaica, which was planned for December 5, anyway, even though Marley and his wife Rita had been wounded in the attack.
Some people wonder if this incident was connected with his death of cancer at age it started in his right toe and spread to his vital organsand there's some speculation that this "gift" came from the CIA. Colby claimed to be a member of the film crew. There is a character, Mark Lansing, that might be a fictionalized version of Carl Colby. The title of this section comes from the hit song by English songwriter Andy Gibb of the band the Bee Gees. In general, the references to the pop music and films of each period of the book are quite authentic.
This song was a huge hit in the fall of It's dated August 14, I listened to the audio and read along in the 3M Cloud app on my phone and computer. This was a book for which the full cast audio definitely leant color to the experience and brought it to life. The cast was, for the most part, terrific, except for Chapter Ten in the last section, "Sound Boy Killing", in which Josey Wales' Jamaican accent didn't sound right.
I was able to follow the Jamaican patois from years of listening to reggae musicians like Bob Marley and the Wailers and Jimmy Cliff and from having a few Jamaican acquaintances in New York City. I certainly learned a whole lot of Jamaican patois from the audio, including how to curse in Jamaican. View all 13 comments. Jan 10, Julie rated it did not like it. I remember school days painfully toiling over my Latin translations Thought I'd need the ambo! I was a cot case.
At first I thought, she'll be apples. I'll give it a burl!! But then I realised my noggin was cactus! I was cheesed off and about to do my lolly. Fair crack of the whip! I had buckleys of sussing out the lingo! Thought I was a drongo! But stone the crows!!! This was a stinker for me as a reader! See I remember school days painfully toiling over my Latin translations Seeing as idiosyncratic language is a literary winner, I can see myself writing The Great Australian Novel, chockers with the vernacular!
But I will just start with this review in the Great Australian Vernacular In fact, I didn't enjoy it so much that I didn't finish it! The pigin dialect being used, the constant jargon of the language, was a struggle. And to further fracture the reading, the story itself jumped between points of view and the timeline. And close to pages of unstructured language and plotline. An effort to read? Thought I'd need an ambulance! I was done in. At first I thought, it'll be all right. I'll give it a go!! But then I realised that my brain was broken! I was annoyed and about to get angry.
I had no chance of understanding the language! Thought I was a stupid person! This was objectionable for me as a reader! View all 50 comments. Apr 17, Matthew Quann rated it really liked it Shelves: A friend mentioned a 10km race along the water in early May. Surely no razor-tooth beast chased them. How did they motivate themselv [4. How did they motivate themselves through hours upon hours of pavement pounding, heart racing, lung squeezing agony? So I put myself to work. I hit the indoor track while the snow still fell in heaps long into the spring, and made use of what little sunshine we had to do some training outdoors.
Weeks into my training, I began to get a bit of an appreciation for those runners who had seemed so alien to me mere months before. Suddenly, the throbbing in my calves became tolerable, the aches in my feet after the run subsided, and I no longer felt as if I had asthma when I ran for more than thirty minutes. I huffed, I puffed, I wanted to stop, to walk, to sit, to sleep. A Brief History of Seven Killings is a lot like training to run a race. There were some days where I felt like giving up the whole novel and moving on to something more accessible, less painful, more immediately satisfying.
There were days when I read 15 or 20 pages and lamented ever having started the book they were so tedious to get through. But I kept at it, day after day, page after page until I got to the end. So what did I think of the whole experience? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot of people! For those of you unfamiliar with the prize, it means that a lot of people bought A Brief History of Seven Killings , but few will actually read it. Some of you may disagree with me on this, but I find that the Man Booker Prize winners tend to be a bit more challenging linguistically, structurally, and narratively then, say, the Pulitzer Prize Winners.
For instance, one of the later POV sections is the one-sided transcription of an interview, while some of the earlier chapters are entirely in dense Jamaican patois. That comparison definitely makes sense to me. James is a master of dialogue and dialect. Each character rings true, even when they are nigh-indecipherable.
Why should I put myself through the pain? It all does serve a greater purpose. This is a story about Jamaica in a time where political parties had their respective armed gangs. It is a story about those gangs, those gang members, the politically involved CIA, reporters, etc. The novel is alive, teeming with characters and places that are entirely believable. I think the use of different perspectives, different voices, and different social classes helps to make the world James has re-created feel tenable.
Can you handle that for 30 pages? It is this section that pained me the most, and its page struggle is what kept me from going for a full five-stars on this one. Then you get the best of the best. This is a gangster novel nestled in a literary coating. If I could make a cross-media comparison: Okay man, enough with the review, the readers are running out of patience. Sheesh, I guess so! Good thing you brought up running because I had a similar experience with the end of A Brief History of Seven Killings as I did with the end of my 10km race. By the time I barreled across the finish line of this book, I felt both accomplished and highly satisfied.
It was very tough in some parts, great in others, and the end had me reeling. It is downright brutal to read at some points, and there were times when I wished I had never taken on such an immense reading challenge. However, I love the book in spite of its flaws. I was more impressed that distressed by the novel. View all 18 comments. Nov 21, Hadrian rated it really liked it Shelves: What is it with and genuinely interesting authors winning awards this year?
This is above all a book with multiple voices, one which skips fluently from Jamaican patois to African-American vernacular c. I was amused to see all the instances of code-switching between Jamaicans and New Yorkers. It's a great touch, to see how well James controls his use of language. Language becomes a tool of identity, something to shape and shed in an attempt to change one's personal identity, to leave behind the distinctive traces of the past.
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The book, as you'd guess for a book set in drug wars, assassination attempts, and Caribbean slums, is violent. It's easy enough to make violence pornographic and overdo it, but James still makes it shocking, in detail and psychology. He takes a sly dig at exploitative journalism here too. Far be it from me to determine what s Jamaica was 'really' like, but this is a convincing story of a place in the past I've never been to before. I look forward to reading more from the author. Mar 16, Richard rated it liked it Shelves: This was my first Marlon James book I read when I got an advance copy before it's release.
I was a bit lukewarm on it but after it became a big award winner and I later fell in love with his writing in his other books, I decided to try this one again. Unfortunately, I had a similar experience. The book is just a little too tedious and not as compelling as his other novels. I did really appreciate the Josey Wales, Weeper, Alex, and Eubie characters much more this time, so I wanted to give it an extra star. But once the narrative moves to New York City, once again my interest plummeted and reading became a chore.
It's just not as interesting as the Jamaican-set part of the book. And the "Nina Burgess" character and the constant reinvention of herself is still the most fascinating part of the novel. Here's my original review: I feel like I should possibly try reading it again. The book is a big sprawling epic that explores a huge colorful cast of fictional characters, all linked to the aftermath of the true life assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley known only as "The Singer" right before the Smile Concert in Jamaica.
It's a really fascinating story, well-researched and well-conceived by brave up-and-coming Jamaican author Marlon James.
It's actually one of the most interesting stories I've read in a long time, told over a span of decades, and combining politics, gang violence, drug wars, journalism, and the CIA. The characters are interesting and detailed, the star of the show being Nina Burgess, who starts in the story as a lost young woman who once had a one-night stand with the singer and at the beginning is now lingering outside of his Jamaican mansion hoping to confront him about her unborn baby and possibly get some child support.
But by the end of the book she will have evolved numerous times in a grand character arc. So why three stars? The book and the prose becomes bloated and tedious. Marlon James, undoubtedly a great writer, seems enamored by his own writing and seemed to be flexing his muscles for all to see throughout the book.
His prose has loads of poetic style but sometimes it got distracting. But every other reviewer who's read an advanced copy seems to love it. Maybe I shouldn't have started reading this while in the midst of a big job that takes up 12 hours a day and took up most of my attention. That could have really affected my patience. Because although I really enjoyed the story itself and its characters, I felt bogged down with the writing, which wasn't helped by the fact that there were a ton of constantly switching POV characters there's a useful cast list of 76 characters at the beginning of the book!
I really wanted to like this more but it might have been the wrong time to read it. I will try to tackle it again. I get a sense that the book deserves it. View all 10 comments. Apr 29, Robin rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Historians, Rastafarians, and Marathoners. My brain is as tired and sore as if it has just been through the equivalent of three back-to-back ironman competitions, in blistering hellfire heat.
It's taken me over two months to finish 26 hours of audio, plus all the times I had to go back and re-listen to ensure I understood what was going on. I feel relieved that this anything-but-brief historical fiction has come to an end, and a tiny bit proud too, having made it. It's a challenging book, which is something I knew, going in, and which had me reluctant to pick it up, for some time now.
In addition to the near pages, there are so many characters: There's also "the singer" aka Bob Marley , who is integral to the story but who doesn't feature directly as a character. The story spans decades, and takes place in both Jamaica, New York and Miami. It deals with the political climate of Jamaica in the 's, relentless gang violence, ghetto life, drug addiction, homophobia, and more. Much of it is written in patois, which takes a while to get used to. My main problem is that there is way, way too much going on in this book. I understand why it is the winner for the Man Booker Prize, for the effective writing and the sheer, vaulted-ceiling ambition of the novel.
Pages, characters, plot, themes. I started to wonder at points what is this book really about? I faultily assumed it was about the failed assassination attempt on "the singer". That happens halfway through. While the assassination attempt is a pivotal event, and an important hinge to the story, the book is more about the warring gangs associated with the Jamaica Labour Party JLP and the People's National Party PNP , and their effects on history.
At some points I was bored, sometimes I was confused. Other times I was riveted, intrigued and moved. It's interminably violent and profane I got an education in Jamaican insults - batty man and bumbaclot to name a few. It taught me a great deal about a part of the world I knew very little about. It resurrected my love for "the singer", too.
I'm glad I read it. I understand why others love it. But dang, it was tough going. I guess I don't like to work quite that hard. All the performers brought their "A" game and breathed life into the characters. I highly recommend it! View all 34 comments. Sep 15, Perry rated it it was amazing Shelves: Me Bredren, a Lectrifyin' Novel bout Jamaican Mob Such a riveting novel -- the best novel I can recall focused on organized crime, and maybe the best ever mob-centered novel in terms of literary structure and scope.
It's destined to make all the lists for best books of this decade, already garnering author Marlon James the Man Booker Prize. I cannot remember a novel published in the past two decades that is so searing in its combination of unique voice, intriguing characters and captivating s Me Bredren, a Lectrifyin' Novel bout Jamaican Mob Such a riveting novel -- the best novel I can recall focused on organized crime, and maybe the best ever mob-centered novel in terms of literary structure and scope.
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I cannot remember a novel published in the past two decades that is so searing in its combination of unique voice, intriguing characters and captivating storylines, such as when it gives a number of thrilling and feverish first-person accounts for a December shooting of the character known as The Singer and the immediate, devastating aftermath, and later provides a fascinating, fictional though plausible explanation for Bob Marley's I mean, the Singer character's death in early from cancer.
Trenchtown part of Kingston, Jamaica The book is told almost solely in the first person narrative accounts of various characters. You have to do some work on keeping up with the characters for a while, referring to the character list in the 1st couple pages of the novel. Frankly, I started to give up, then as if all of a sudden everything began clicking. It was well worth the effort. The story follows the Greater Kingston, Jamaica gangs chiefly, the one known as the Storm Posse and related characters over 3 decades - in Greater Kingston for the first 2, then mainly in New York City from to Skyview of Kingston, Jamaica, Oct.
Aside from that, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. An' one more ting me need you don fahget, me ute: Don ja go pissin on da gorgon! View all 8 comments. Aug 06, Jill rated it it was amazing Shelves: Because make no mistake about it: Marlon James has infused sheer genius into this masterwork.
Throughout these pages, he is, simultaneously, a lyricist, a historian, a dialect master, a craftsman, and a ventriloquist. In a series of first-person narrations, he channels gang members, informers, drug dealers, CIA agents, a Rolling Stone reporter and even a particularly insightful ghost. Lurking on the periphery is also a fine portrayal and analysis-of-sorts of the Singer, an obvious nod to Bob Marley and the assassination attempt against his life at the end of Two questions beg answering: As far as the length, Marlon James seems in no hurry to get to his final destination.
His goal is sweeping: Peace make you stupid. You forget that not everybody sign peace treaty. Good times bad for somebody. One of his finest character creations is Nina — who had a one-night stand with the Singer — and who consistently reinvents herself four times in the novel, displaying the impossibility of fully escaping the violence of the past. A Brief History is both sprawling and demanding. Marlon James helpfully provides the reader with a list of characters at the start, and I often had to refer to it.
There are times when the complex political situation and drug culture — which weaves its way into the boroughs of New York City — can seem confusing. James voice s are so assured and the writing is often so elegiac that I could easily forgive its excesses. Some of his stream-of-consciousness passages literally took my breath away. I have no doubt that this will be on my personal Top Ten of list. View all 17 comments. As I write this review I listen to Bob Marley, ahhh reggae.
It tells the story of the assassins, drug dealers, ghosts during the unstable As I write this review I listen to Bob Marley, ahhh reggae. It tells the story of the assassins, drug dealers, ghosts during the unstable times the country found itself in, all with crude language. And it has done so so well, that I deem it as one the best books every written, and one that everyone should read at least once in their life time.
Also the first chapter is narrated by Sir Arthur George Jennings, a Jamaican politician, that appears as a ghost since he was murdered. And I have to say, as a fellow Caribbean, this novel felt like coming home, even if English is not the main language of my country and we lack the drug wars, somehow simply his descriptions of the place give you a sort of peace in between the heart-ripping stories. Reason is for rich people. Jamaica at the time was also a bit homophobic as a whole, and in this novel there are a few homosexual male sex scenes, as well as denial of the main gay character about his feelings, which makes the story way more vivid.
This is the best I can do for a review, since mostly I just gush about the incredible writing, the intimidating plot-line, the dark cast of characters, and just every single page of this masterpiece. This is an edgy, worthwhile Booker pick, but not for the faint-hearted. For the most part, James alternates patois and standard speech, but nearly every section is packed with local slang and expletives. Whether in monologue or dialogue, the many voices form a captivating chorus. The novel is in five parts, each named after a popular song or album of the time.
All the narrative switches, once so dynamic, grow tiresome. At pages this would have been a five-star read. Welcome to de dread circle of carnage — blade to blade, bullet to bullet, body to body, this is our country. Full review to appear in December issue of Third Way magazine. I was delighted to win a free copy through Goodreads First Reads.
View all 11 comments. Mar 19, Paul E.
Marlon James' third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings , is set in a Jamaica that lies exposed like a dead badger at the roadside with all its glistening innards hanging out, being picked at by carrion birds. I mean this in a good way, you understand. James writes like he's painting the Sistine Chapel with words. I've never been to Jamaica but after reading this book the place lives and breathes inside my mind nonetheless. When the focus shifts to the US in the second half of the book, thou Marlon James' third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings , is set in a Jamaica that lies exposed like a dead badger at the roadside with all its glistening innards hanging out, being picked at by carrion birds.
When the focus shifts to the US in the second half of the book, though, James doesn't quite bring it to life quite as well, which is a shame. Maybe it's because I've been to the States; I don't know. The author populates his beautifully painted landscape with a multitude of different characters, some living and some ghostly, all of whom are fleshed out, believable and speak with unique voices I still feel like I have a distinctly un-heavenly host of shades living in my skull. The plot is just as wide-ranging as the cast.
It encompasses multiple continents and many decades. It's anything but brief and includes an awful lot more than seven killings. This has been said by virtually every reviewer of this book but, Hell, I never claimed to be original. It inevitably contains almost everything life has to offer and then some. To be honest, I was completely swept up by this book and carried along a very long, rocky road by a very skilled driver. The reason I haven't given this great book five stars is that it's such an exhaustive, comprehensive, far-reaching complexity of settings, characters and events that it very nearly collapses under its own weight at times.
Also, when all is said and done, I wasn't entirely certain what the author was actually trying to say I mean, drugs and murder and crime and corruption are bad, mmmKay, is a valid message that bears repeating but Did I miss some deeper message? Hell, it's certainly possible. Please don't let my minor criticisms put you off reading this book though; it really is something quite special and I'll definitely be reading more by this author. View all 26 comments.
It's not been an easy read, it's not been a pleasant read but it's a fantastic read. Gritty, violent, thought provoking, confronting and a real challenge but I've come away from it feeling as enriched and shocked as I have put through the ringer.
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I need more time with my thoughts. Jan 16, Trish rated it it was amazing Shelves: This book is not brief; it has many more than seven killings; it redefines what a novel is. The storyline is anything but simple, told from mu This book is not brief; it has many more than seven killings; it redefines what a novel is. But while we are looking for answers, we get a whole lotta reasons for why people want to be close to the Singer or are jealous of him or are afraid of him.
And it is these things that become the story. I began by listening to the HighBridge audio production of this novel, performed with enormous skill by an exceptional actor ensemble, but soon found I wanted to see the text. James had me in such awe of what he was doing that I wanted to see the overall structure, introduction, dedication, every little thing. It is a game-changing piece of work. And his voice…it is hard to describe the seeing-ness of his voice.
It seems almost trite to say he got the woman thing. The violence…James says "violence should be violent" It is a reflection, hard to believe, but a reflection of how we do not have to live. Set alternately in Jamaica, New York, and Miami, this is what happens, what we have in store with bad judgement and poor leaders.
A Brief History of Seven Killings
The book is very violent, and the language is both terribly funny and terribly ugly, the emphasis on terrible. It is gut-punching, air-sucking, awe-inspiring terrible. There are references to Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia in here when the CIA operatives were speaking, as well as other nefarious activities and dirty tricks by representatives of other countries, but James warns us not to read this work as history.
It is fiction on a framework of research into a time that was interesting to James. In an interview with Kima Jones and reprinted on her blog, James tells us that the post colonialist mindset and unconscious racism has been picked up by white women: Interviews with Marlon James have left me like a deer in the headlights, too stunned to complete my next thought straight away.
I am more used to his answers to common questions now, but he can still be utterly surprising. A few links to some of his interviews, all of which are interesting, are below. View all 16 comments. Oct 04, Anthony Vacca rated it it was amazing.
What the hell gives, mac? There's a goddamned experimental novel in my crime novel! You expect me to read this shit? Terribly sorry to be a bother, but there must have been some confusion with my order. You see, there seems to be a crime novel in my experimental novel. I'm afraid I don't have quite the palate for such things. This book is probably not for you. But allow me to explain. A Brief History of Seven Killings is hard work…. Marlon James is a stunning writer, if a little overly ambitious. The book at pages is anything but brief and details more than seven killings.
The seven killings refers to the men that were involved in the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in and the book ends when the last of those seven is killed in A lot of the true circumstances surrounding the lives and deaths of these men is not known but James successfully brings them into a vivid, if hypothetical focus. This is what the best historical fiction does and James totally succeeds on this level. His characters are finely drawn. James uses a very effective technique to relate a story that spans nearly 20 years.
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