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The Book of Fantasy by Jorge Luis Borges
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The Book of Fantasy (1940)

by Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy-Casares (Editor), Silvina Ocampo (Editor)

Other authors: Thomas Bailey Aldrich (Contributor), Leonid Andreyev (Contributor), John Aubrey (Contributor), JG Ballard (Contributor), Max Beerbohm (Contributor)68 more, Ambrose Bierce (Contributor), Adolfo Bioy-Casares (Contributor), Leon Bloy (Contributor), Ray Bradbury (Contributor), Tor Åge Bringsvaerd (Contributor), Martin Buber (Contributor), Sir Richard Burton (Contributor), Arturo Cancela (Contributor), Thomas Carlyle (Contributor), Lewis Carroll (Contributor), G. K. Chesterton (Contributor), Ah'med Ech Chiruani (Contributor), Chuang Tzu (Contributor), Jean Cocteau (Contributor), Julio Cortázar (Contributor), Santiago Dabove (Contributor), Alexandra David-Neel (Contributor), Walter de la Mare (Contributor), Pilar de Lusarreta (Contributor), Guy de Maupassant (Contributor), Macedonio Fernández (Contributor), J. G. Frazer (Contributor), Elena Garro (Contributor), Herbert A. Giles (Contributor), Nathaniel Hawthorne (Contributor), Delia Ingenieros (Contributor), IA Ireland (Contributor), WW Jacobs (Contributor), James Joyce (Contributor), Franz Kafka (Contributor), Rudyard Kipling (Contributor), Lord Dunsany (Contributor), Leopoldo Lugones (Contributor), Arthur Machen (Contributor), Edwin Morgan (Contributor), HA Murena (Contributor), Niu Chiao (Contributor), Silvina Ocampo (Contributor), P'u Sung Ling (Contributor), Giovanni Papini (Contributor), Carlos Peralta (Contributor), Barry Perowne (Contributor), Petronius (Contributor), Manuel Peyrou (Contributor), Edgar Allan Poe (Contributor), Francois Rabelais (Contributor), Ryūnosuke Akutagawa (Contributor), Saki (Contributor), Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Contributor), May Sinclair (Contributor), WW Skeat (Contributor), Olaf Stapledon (Contributor), Emanuel Swedenborg (Contributor), Leo Tolstoy (Contributor), B. Traven (Contributor), Tsao Hsueh-Chin (Contributor), Villiers de l'Isle Adam (Contributor), Voltaire (Contributor), Evelyn Waugh (Contributor), Edith Wharton (Contributor), Edward Lucas White (Contributor), Juan Rodolfo Wilcock (Contributor), Oscar Wilde (Contributor), Richard Wilhelm (Contributor), G. Willoughby-Meade (Contributor), Wu Ch'Eng En (Contributor), William Butler Yeats (Contributor), José Zorrilla (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
377845,564 (4.25)18
Ursula K. LeGuin's amusing and thoughtful introduction explores the history and varieties of fantastic literature and considers its relevance to modern society. This engrossing collection of stories features the works of such writers as J.G. Ballard, Jorge Juis Borges, Franz Kafka, Ray Bradbury, Evelyn Waugh, and more."… (more)

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English (7)  Spanish (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
The term "Fantasy" in modern culture seems to have become something of a twisted niche - often now associated with lands of Tolkien-style creatures and epic battles. But this collection of short stories, put together by Borges, Ocampo and Casares, returns to the roots of what it means to be "fantastic". The compendium, gathered from all over time and space, is large and diverse, but brought together through a simple desire to explore the imagination.

Folk tales, Chinese dream stories, ghost stories, strange animals, weird letters, bizarre furniture... I especially enjoyed some of the really short tales, a couple of pages long. Some of the stories are a little hardgoing, but a) none of them are so long you can't just read through them to the next one, b) some of the turn out to be great stories by the end.

I was going to read this then pass it on, but think I'll keep it now. Worth picking up a copy if you see it.

For the record, I particularly enjoyed these (in case you haven't time to read them all, or just want to Google some):

The Drowned Giant - J.G. Ballard
Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius - Borges himself, always a classic
House Taken Over - Julio Cortazar
Earth's Holocaust - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Monkey's Paw - W. W. Jacobs
The Wizard Passed Over - Infante Don Juan Manuel
Who Knows? - Guy de Maupassant
The Blind Spot - Barry Perowne
The Encounter - an old Chinese story
Macario - B Traven
The Infinite Dream of Pao-yu - Ta'ao Chan ( )
  6loss | Nov 7, 2019 |

In Argentina, even the public art can be fabulous and haunting

A truly outstanding collection from the libraries of world literature, some ancient, mostly modern; ninety stories of fantasy and the fantastic with many familiar authors such as John Aubrey, J.G. Ballard, Ambrose Bierce, Ray Bradbury, Lewis Carroll, Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy, Voltaire, Edith Warton, Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh.

For the purposes of my review I will focus on one tale I found especially fascinating from an Argentinian author I’ve recently come to dearly love. Here is my write-up. Spoiler Alert: my analysis covers the entire story, beginning to end.

THE SQUID IN ITS OWN INK by Adolfo Bioy Casares (written about 1950)
Remarkable Event: “More happened in this town during the last few days than in the whole of the rest of its history.” So begins the tale told by our first-person narrator, a schoolteacher who’s lived in this town all his life, telling us of an event clearly more noteworthy in the town's 100 year history than even an Indian attack, bouts of cholera or civic pageants. Not even close. What is it? He informs us of a number of strange happenings leading up to the shocking discovery but as to what it is exactly, we are kept in suspense for most of the story.

Bibliophile: Our twenty-something schoolteacher is proud to share how he devours books, loves books, reads everything he can get his book loving hands on since his goal and objective is culture. He also does some writing on the side and ultimately wants to be seen not only as an accomplished author but a highly cultured member of the community, somewhat similar to an older gentleman much looked up to in the town, pillar of local society, one Juan Camargo. Love the way Bioy Casares has a youthful lover of books as his narrator, the kind of person most readers of literature around the world can identify with.

Missing: Juan Camargo lives in a real chalet with a lawn and flower gardens in his large front yard. Every spring and summer, water from a sprinkler twirls around in the garden, nonstop, keeping the grass green and the flowers fresh. But something unexpected happens: the sprinkler is missing. That’s right – it’s time to water the gardens and lawn and the sprinkler is nowhere to be seen. The narrator and all his buddies at the local bar figure there must be a very specific reason why no sprinkler.

As the narrator cites, eventually he and his mates uncovered something “about which little was natural and which turned out to be quite a surprise.” Ah, foreshadowing. As readers, when we likewise discover this unnatural thing, we are also a little surprised. Actually, I myself was quite surprised, even somewhat stunned. Anyway, now we are into the story and have plenty of reason to keep turning the pages.

The Plot Thickens: Would Juan carelessly cut off the water? Impossible. Juan is an exceptional man with old fashion ideas on what should always be done to keep things in order. Since he and his wife, doña Remedios rarely tolerate strangers, the only other person who ever goes in and out of their chalet is godson don Tadeito, a quiet boy who also happens to be a student in the narrator’s primary school class.

Then that very next day after the missing sprinkler, the narrator hears a knock at 2:00 in the afternoon, siesta time, at his apartment door. It’s don Tadeito who asks him for first, second and third year textbooks. Why this request? Don Tadeito simply answers that Godfather asks. And the next day, a similar knock and request, only this time don Tadeito asks for fourth and fifth year textbooks. Same question; same response: Godfather wants them.

Master Plan: As expected, the conversation at the bar is abuzz with the missing sprinkler and now the requests for all those textbooks. What is going on here? The whole crew gathers round a table; the brassy voice of Don Pomponio suggests they form a committee and go ask Juan Camargo himself for an explanation. Aldini has a better idea: the narrator should suggest don Tadeito spy on his Godfather and doña Remedios and report back to him what he hears. So, next visit by don Tadeito for more textbooks, the narrator tells the boy what he should do. The boy quietly agrees.

Revelation: On his next visit to his teacher, don Tadeito recites in a soft monotone how Godfather and doña Remedios now have a new guest living in the shed in their backyard, a special gust for special reasons needing water to keep himself alive. And what are these special reasons? Though a series of pointed questions, the narrator comes to understand this special guest is from another planet and not only did he need water for his health, he needed textbooks to learn more about planet earth so he could best communicate with the people who have the power to drop the atomic bomb.

He comes from a planet that knows about many worlds who have dropped atomic bombs and thereby destroyed themselves. And he also knows the earth dropping an atomic bomb could set off a possible chain reaction destroying his own planet. The visitor came as a friend and liberator and was asking for Godfather's help.

Philosophy: Realizing all his buddies at the bar will never believe his report on such a piece of science fiction, he brings don Tadeito to repeat what he overheard himself from Juan Camargo. The boys listen in widemouthed astonishment, prompting much philosophizing and theorizing about the human race working problems out with or without help from an alien.

Their debate ends with a call to action but, by the time they all reach Juan Camargo's chalet, water is twirling from the sprinkler in the front yard. It appears a decision has already been made about keeping the visitor from another planet alive.

Coda: One of the many features I find both captivating and charming about this Adolfo Bioy Casares tale is how, as it turns out, the fate of the entire planet depends on a decision made by an older gentleman and his wife. In a way, they could be any older couple, anywhere on the globe. And, true to form, since they were the hosts of the stranger and the ones the stranger asked directly for help, they didn’t consult anybody else but simply make the decision themselves.


Author of the fantastic, Adolfo Bioy Casares of Argentina ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |


In Argentina, even the public art can be fabulous and haunting

A truly outstanding collection from the libraries of world literature, some ancient, mostly modern; ninety stories of fantasy and the fantastic with many familiar authors such as John Aubrey, J.G. Ballard, Ambrose Bierce, Ray Bradbury, Lewis Carroll, Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling, Leo Tolstoy, Voltaire, Edith Warton, Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh. For the purposes of my review I will focus on one tale I found especially fascinating from an Argentinian author I’ve recently come to dearly love. Here is my write-up. Spoiler Alert: my analysis covers the entire story, beginning to end.

THE SQUID IN ITS OWN INK by Adolfo Bioy Casares (written about 1950)
Remarkable Event: “More happened in this town during the last few days than in the whole of the rest of its history.” So begins the tale told by our first-person narrator, a schoolteacher who’s lived in this town all his life, telling us of an event clearly more noteworthy in the town's 100 year history than even an Indian attack, bouts of cholera or civic pageants. Not even close. What is it? He informs us of a number of strange happenings leading up to the shocking discovery but as to what it is exactly, we are kept in suspense for most of the story.

Bibliophile: Our twenty-something schoolteacher is proud to share how he devours books, loves books, reads everything he can get his book loving hands on since his goal and objective is culture. He also does some writing on the side and ultimately wants to be seen not only as an accomplished author but a highly cultured member of the community, somewhat similar to an older gentleman much looked up to in the town, pillar of local society, one Juan Camargo. Love the way Bioy Casares has a youthful lover of books as his narrator, the kind of person most readers of literature around the world can identify with.

Missing: Juan Camargo lives in a real chalet with a lawn and flower gardens in his large front yard. Every spring and summer, water from a sprinkler twirls around in the garden, nonstop, keeping the grass green and the flowers fresh. But something unexpected happens: the sprinkler is missing. That’s right – it’s time to water the gardens and lawn and the sprinkler is nowhere to be seen. The narrator and all his buddies at the local bar figure there must be a very specific reason why no sprinkler. As the narrator sites, eventually he and his mates uncovered something “about which little was natural and which turned out to be quite a surprise.” Ah, foreshadowing. As readers, when we likewise discover this unnatural thing, we are also a little surprised. Actually, I myself was quite surprised, even somewhat stunned. Anyway, now we are into the story and have plenty of reason to keep turning the pages.

The Plot Thickens: Would Juan carelessly cut off the water? Impossible. Juan is an exceptional man with old fashion ideas on what should always be done to keep things in order. Since he and his wife, doña Remedios rarely tolerate strangers, the only other person who ever goes in and out of their chalet is godson don Tadeito, a quiet boy who also happens to be a student in the narrator’s primary school class. Then that very next day after the missing sprinkler, the narrator hears a knock at 2:00 in the afternoon, siesta time, at his apartment door. It’s don Tadeito who asks him for first, second and third year textbooks. Why this request? Don Tadeito simply answers that Godfather asks. And the next day, a similar knock and request, only this time don Tadeito asks for fourth and fifth year textbooks. Same question; same response: Godfather wants them.

Master Plan: As expected, the conversation at the bar is abuzz with the missing sprinkler and now the requests for all those textbooks. What is going on here? The whole crew gathers round a table; the brassy voice of Don Pomponio suggests they form a committee and go ask Juan Camargo himself for an explanation. Aldini has a better idea: the narrator should suggest don Tadeito spy on his Godfather and doña Remedios and report back to him what he hears. So, next visit by don Tadeito for more textbooks, the narrator tells the boy what he should do. The boy quietly agrees.

Revelation: On his next visit to his teacher, don Tadeito recites in a soft monotone how Godfather and doña Remedios now have a new guest living in the shed in their backyard, a special gust for special reasons needing water to keep himself alive. And what are these special reasons? Though a series of pointed questions, the narrator comes to understand this special guest is from another planet and not only did he need water for his health, he needed textbooks to learn more about planet earth so he could best communicate with the people who have the power to drop the atomic bomb. He comes from a planet that knows about many worlds who have dropped atomic bombs and thereby destroyed themselves. And he also knows the earth dropping an atomic bomb could set off a possible chain reaction destroying his own planet. The visitor came as a friend and liberator and was asking for Godfather's help.

Philosophy: Realizing all his buddies at the bar will never believe his report on such a piece of science fiction, he brings don Tadeito to repeat what he overheard himself from Juan Camargo. The boys listen in widemouthed astonishment, prompting much philosophizing and theorizing about the human race working problems out with or without help from an alien. Their debate ends with a call to action but, by the time they all reach Juan Camargo's chalet, water is twirling from the sprinkler in the front yard. It appears a decision has already been made about keeping the visitor from another planet alive.

Coda: One of the many features I find both captivating and charming about this Adolfo Bioy Casares tale is how, as it turns out, the fate of the entire planet depends on a decision made by an older gentleman and his wife. In a way, they could be any older couple, anywhere on the globe. And, true to form, since they were the hosts of the stranger and the ones the stranger asked directly for help, they didn’t consult anybody else but simply make the decision themselves.


Author of the fantastic, Adolfo Bioy Casares of Argentina
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Fantasy as it became widely known and commercialized during the second half of the 20th Century, on the derivative heels of Tolkien -- with its abundant swords and sorcerers, redundant quests and ubiquitous good v. evil schlock — does not exist among the refined stories of The Book of Fantasy. Rather, fantasies of a more ancient order in fiction, focused on the uncanny, macabre, or sometimes just plain weird, haunt the peculiar pages of this supernaturally redolent anthology

Like "The Man Who Collected the First of September, 1973," by Tor Åge Bringsværd, a bizarre tale about an ultra-obsessed man — a veritable hoarder of facts — who filled his home for years with stacks of news clippings to the rafters, all of them published on September 1st, 1973. For the remainder of his life, as the man considered only that day and nothing but that day, his future and his past, beyond that day, ceased to exist.

The anthology was edited by three of Argentina's luminaries, Jorge Luis Borges, and the lesser known Silvina Ocampo and Adolfo Bioy Cesares (the latter's novels, The Invention of Morel and Asleep in the Sun, have been reissued by NYRB Classics). They were three good friends who'd meet and discuss good literature, in particular stories that were strange, and from their conversations published their collaboration, The Book of Fantasy, in 1940 (and then revised it in 1965 and again in 1976), at which times they added more contemporary stories -- yet stories that still retained the editors' "old school" conceptions of "fantasy" or "fantastic literature" — to their collection, and it has remained in print ever since.

Several of the stories are so short that today they could be classified as flash fiction: a couple sentences, a paragraph or two, less than a single page at most, like this gem below, "Eternal Life," by James George Frazer:

A fourth story, taken down near Oldenburg in Holstein, tells of a jolly dame that ate and drank and lived right merrily and had all that heart could desire, and she wished to live always. For the first hundred years all went well, but after that she began to shrink and shrivel up, till at last she could neither walk nor stand nor eat nor drink. But die she could not. At first they fed her as if she were a little child, but when she grew smaller and smaller they put her in a glass bottle and hung her up in the church. And there she still hangs, in the church of St Mary, at Lübeck. She is as small as a mouse, but once a year she stirs.

My favorite story from The Book of Fantasy is "Being Dust" by Santiago Dabove, an account of an unfortunate man who maintains consciousness long after a paralyzing fall from a horse on a remote road; his mind — and especially his perceptual acuity in creative problem solving — remains intact: "What a strange plant my head is ... I wanted to be a tobacco plant so that I wouldn't need to smoke!" And even though his eye sockets are now cave-like hollows, he can still see, and he feels a "tingling sensation" inside what's left of the husk of his rotted torso, and accurately assesses that he "must have an ants' nest somewhere near my heart," still so attuned as he is to his own flesh even as it disintegrates into molecules in the mud over many months.

In the introduction to the 1988 edition, Ursula K. Leguin rightly calls the selections made by the editors "idiosyncratic" and "eclectic". For every Poe or Hawthorne that was included, there's a Macedonio Fernandez ("Tantalia") or Manuel Peyrou ("The Bust"); or for every Kipling or Tolstoy, an Arturo Cancela and Pilar de Lusarreta (co-authors of the outstanding "Fate is a Fool"), as well as many more lesser known writers, to satisfy even the most hardcore connoisseurs of the arcane. It's an exceptional anthology, full of surprising and delightful discoveries, and an intriguing glimpse at the stories that, once upon a time, wowed Jorge Luis Borges and two of his good fellow author friends. ( )
4 vote absurdeist | Jul 22, 2012 |
A very interesting anthology of short works of fantasy, with fantasy here basically referring to any sort of fiction that uses fantastic or supernatural elements. This includes everything from the classic The Thousand and One Nights to Kafka's nightmarish "Before the Law." There's a nice mix of the usual suspects (Kipling, Poe, Maupassant, Wells) along with a good selection of less anthologized international authors, especially from Latin America, who have worked in the fantastic. Anyone interested in literature of the fantastic or supernatural would enjoy the sheer diversity that's on display in the collection. ( )
  CarlosMcRey | Sep 16, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jorge Luis Borgesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bioy-Casares, AdolfoEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Ocampo, SilvinaEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldrich, Thomas BaileyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Andreyev, LeonidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aubrey, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballard, JGContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beerbohm, MaxContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bierce, AmbroseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bioy-Casares, AdolfoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloy, LeonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, RayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bringsvaerd, Tor ÅgeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buber, MartinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burton, Sir RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cancela, ArturoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carlyle, ThomasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carroll, LewisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chesterton, G. K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chiruani, Ah'med EchContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chuang TzuContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cocteau, JeanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cortázar, JulioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dabove, SantiagoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
David-Neel, AlexandraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de la Mare, WalterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Lusarreta, PilarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Maupassant, GuyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fernández, MacedonioContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frazer, J. G.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garro, ElenaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giles, Herbert A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hawthorne, NathanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ingenieros, DeliaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ireland, IAContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jacobs, WWContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Joyce, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kafka, FranzContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kipling, RudyardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lord DunsanyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lugones, LeopoldoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Machen, ArthurContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morgan, EdwinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murena, HAContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Niu ChiaoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ocampo, SilvinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
P'u Sung LingContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Papini, GiovanniContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peralta, CarlosContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Perowne, BarryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
PetroniusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peyrou, ManuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Poe, Edgar AllanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rabelais, FrancoisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ryūnosuke AkutagawaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
SakiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shelley, Mary WollstonecraftContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, MayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Skeat, WWContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stapledon, OlafContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swedenborg, EmanuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tolstoy, LeoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Traven, B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tsao Hsueh-ChinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Villiers de l'Isle AdamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
VoltaireContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waugh, EvelynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wharton, EdithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, Edward LucasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilcock, Juan RodolfoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilde, OscarContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilhelm, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willoughby-Meade, G.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wu Ch'Eng EnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yeats, William ButlerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zorrilla, JoséContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Franco, ErnestoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guin, Ursula K. LeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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