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Jeffrey Eugenides ´ 5 characters

Middlesex

Secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction Lyrical and thrilling Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. This is a book about transitionTransition from child to adult to parent and grandparentFrom native to immigrantFrom brother and sister to husband and wifeFrom rural dweller to urbaniteFrom modest affluence to poverty and up againFrom loving language to losing the power of speechFrom geek to hippie From war through peace to civil unrestFrom belief to unbeliefFrom rescued to rescuerFrom moral probity to corruption and crimeOh and one character transitions from female to maleThe last of those is the book s USP but don t let that fool you it s no limited to those with niche interests in intersex conditions than it s limited to those of Greek heritage It is an unusual story but with universal themes told by a wonderfully engaging lyrical narratorFew of us fit neatly into binary categories We all go through many transitions in our lives the final one is only another kind of emigration This book speaks to everyone not just those like Cal s family who have always had a knack for self transformationPlotThe family originally raised silkworms so metamorphosis and long threads are at the heart of their lives as well as the story No fear of spoilers the key aspects are summarised in the opening paragraphs starting with I was born twice first as a baby girl and then again as a teenage boy The rest of the book brings two strands together Cal s grandparents Lefty and Desdemona fleeing the Turks in 1922 as siblings and arriving in the US as husband and wife and how that meant Cal ended up with a recessive intersex condition and is now telling his story He sometimes addresses the reader directly shout outs to deus ex machina Checkov s gun etcIn many respects it is a conventional sweeping family drama of the ups and downs of the American Dream building and rebuilding businesses against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and civil rights movement but with an extra dose of teen angst about puberty or lack thereof However the final few chapters strike an oddly different tone Octopussy s Garden is partly to hammer home the parallels with Greek mythology and echo a passage in the middle where Cal muses on the transformations of puberty using sea creatures as an analogy but the final intrigue and chase felt very off key compared with the rest of the bookThere is also an innate female circularity to the story perhaps because Greeks believe that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition that to go forward you have to come back to where you began This is compounded by some reversal like Amis s execrable Time s Arrow in old age Lefty s mind and memories go into reverse and in an early section Cal describes his birth like a film on rewindDestiny The Known and UnknownCal is omniscient not just when he remembers things he wouldn t be able to recall including being a foetus but also in terms of how much he knows about other people s inner thoughts and private actions On a few occasions it feels a little weird the erotic significance of the grandmother s corset for instance but it s how he makes the extraordinary aspects of the plot credible he has already conjured believable characters the reader cares about Nevertheless the lack of knowledge often displayed is staggering yet just about plausible The most significant examples are that Desdemona and Lefty get away with their relationship and that no one realises Calliope as he originally is is not a girl There are others though such as teenage fumblings and at which point Cal clearly understood that I wasn t a girl but something in between though the boy involved did notSome of the ignorance is cultivated When Desdemona and Lefty fake a courtship on the boat Lefty never discouraged any speculation He seized the opportunity of transatlantic travel to reinvent himself Aware that whatever happened now would become the truth Playing out this imaginary flirtation they began to believe it it wasn t other travellers they were trying to convince it was themselvesForgetting also matters Everything about Middlesex the house spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of forgettingThere are echoes of Greek mythology throughout which gives a certain weight and tone to how Cal tells it For instance An infinite number of possible selves crowded the threshold as Cal s parents prepare to conceive him and it s no coincidence that his childhood church was the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and that they later move to Middlesex Boulevard It also creates an additional layer of foreshadowing Cal s father is conceived after his parents see a play about a hybrid monster and at a significant medical appointment about Cal Milton Cal s father wears traditional Tragedy and Comedy masks as cufflinks which way will it goSexSexual identity is key Desdemona is obsessed with predicting the sex of unborn children and Cal himself was only conceived because his parents really wanted a girl they already had a son and believed they had found a way to improve the odds of that He was born at the women s hospital and It was all around me from the beginning the weight of female suffering with its biblical justification and vanishing acts Nothing unusual was noticed by the elderly doctor so Five minutes old and already the themes of my life chance and sex announced themselvesThere is relatively little about Cal s adaptation to living as a man though there is a sweet sideline in learning how to date women the perils of what to tell them when etc Most of the story leads up to that realization the agonies of not developing when her friends do then growing oddly tall and awkward struggling with infatuation with girls etc However there are glimpses of the adult issues I m not androgynous when Calliope surfaces she does so like a childhood speech impediment It s a little like being possessed Callie rises up inside me wearing my skin like a loose robe But then just as suddenly she is leaving shrinking and melting away inside me Cal is currently in Berlin and This once divided city reminds me of myself A childhood trip to Cyprus was cancelled by annexation Cyprus was being cut in half like all the other places in the world that were no longer one thing or the otherIt is incest that causes Cal s condition but there is no rancour in the telling of the story perhaps because it s not just Desdemona and Lefty Other cousins married each other Cal s parents are cousins conceived on the same day who grew up together and even some couples who are not related by blood have a rather incestuous aspect a much older husband who treats his wife in some ways like a daughter an engaged couple who split only for the spurned man to marry the sister of her new boyfriend one sibling suggesting another experiment with masturbation a first sexual encounter with a best friend s brother followed by intimacy with the friend But none of it s salacious A uiet irony is that the English test at Ellis Island is about eunuchs DesdeomonaCal s grandmother is central to the book In many ways they have very contrasting lives but there are surprising parallels too After an initial coldness there is a special bond between them Desdemona disapproved of Milton and Tessie marrying of trying to choose their sex of the baby and was then upset when her prediction of a boy was wrong However she was uickly won over at which point Cal gave Desdemona back her original sinShe had been an innocent village girl surprised by developments of her own body as well as her heart and that of her brother Her body was a constant embarrassment to her It was always announcing itself in ways she didn t want to sanctionher body was still a stranger to its owner which applies just as much to Cal Similarly just as Desdemona had to reinvent herself as wife instead of sister and forge an identity in a new country Callie becomes Cal Like a stroke victim as Lefty was I was having to learn all the most simple skills and I was like an immigrant to the world of men Diagnosis and Treatment What Determines GenderFrom my birth when they went undetected to my baptism where they upstaged the priest to my troubled adolescence when they didn t do much of anything and then did everything at once my genitals have been the most significant thing that ever happened to meGender is not always clearcut determined by a variety of influences chromosomal sex gonadal sex hormones internal genital structures external genitals and most important the sex of rearing The last is the belief of the doctor who saw it as like a native tongue imprinted in the brain during childhood Cal raised as a girl proves otherwiseCal s father looks to medicine to fix her problem and both parents react differently Milton heard the words that were there He heard treatment and effective Tessie on the other hand heard the words that weren t there The doctor hadn t said my name He hadn t said daughter either He didn t use any pronouns Cal is left poised between the print of genetics and the White Out of surgery But we re all made up of many partsControversy Appropriateness and SensitivitySome uestion Eugenides right to write a book like this He is Greek American but does not have any intersex condition and is not a trans person Further Cal and his doctors uses the term hermaphrodite which many find offensive when applied to peopleAs a straight cis woman with no medical background I guess I am not really in a position to defend against such criticisms Nevertheless I think those who actually read it would find it hard to take offence at the sensitive and insightful way this aspect is portrayed As for the H word I expect it s what doctors in the 1960s would have used and there are still places where 5 Alpha Reductase Deficiency is described in such terms Eugenides has said The story of Hermaphroditus the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite is one I retell in modern guise in two different sections of the book and I m referring not to a person or a group of people but to a literary character From For me one of the bigger issues is the focus of mid teen Cal s desires The Obscure Object Calling a girl or woman an object can t be good can it Yet it doesn t come across as objectifying in the usual sense It s a way of preserving anonymity and distance reflecting her special idolised position in Cal s life More troubling is the the issue of consent view spoilerIf one partner is apparently asleep but enjoying things and the pattern is repeated over many nights is that OK As a plain uestion I d say not but the way it s described I m inclined to sit firmly on the fence Another tricky aspect is the exploitation or not of sex workers even if it s dressed up as empowerment I m not convinced it is hide spoiler Cold Case, Hot Accomplice (Men of Wolf Creek, you it s no limited to those with niche interests in intersex conditions than it s limited to those of Greek heritage It is an unusual story but with universal themes told by a wonderfully engaging lyrical narratorFew of us fit neatly into binary categories We all go through many transitions in our lives the final one is only another kind of emigration This book speaks to everyone not just those like Cal s family who have always had a knack for self transformationPlotThe family originally raised silkworms so metamorphosis and long threads are at the heart of their lives as well as the story No fear of spoilers the key aspects are summarised in the opening paragraphs starting with I was born twice first as a baby girl and then again as a teenage boy The rest of the book brings two strands together Cal s grandparents Lefty and Desdemona fleeing the Turks in 1922 as siblings and arriving in the US as husband and wife and how that meant Cal ended up with a recessive intersex condition and is now telling his story He sometimes addresses the reader directly shout outs to deus ex machina Checkov s gun etcIn many respects it is a conventional sweeping family drama of the ups and downs of the American Dream building and rebuilding businesses against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and civil rights movement but with an extra dose of teen angst about puberty or lack thereof However the final few chapters strike an oddly different tone Octopussy s Garden is partly to hammer home the parallels with Greek mythology and echo a passage in the middle where Cal muses on the transformations of puberty using sea creatures as an analogy but the final intrigue and chase felt very off key compared with the rest of the bookThere is also an innate female circularity to the story perhaps because Greeks believe that to be happy Blackmailed Into the Greek Tycoons Bed (International Billionaires, you have to find variety in repetition that to go forward Her Husbands Christmas Bargain you have to come back to where The Geography of Witchcraft you began This is compounded by some reversal like Amis s execrable Time s Arrow in old age Lefty s mind and memories go into reverse and in an early section Cal describes his birth like a film on rewindDestiny The Known and UnknownCal is omniscient not just when he remembers things he wouldn t be able to recall including being a foetus but also in terms of how much he knows about other people s inner thoughts and private actions On a few occasions it feels a little weird the erotic significance of the grandmother s corset for instance but it s how he makes the extraordinary aspects of the plot credible he has already conjured believable characters the reader cares about Nevertheless the lack of knowledge often displayed is staggering Hold On To Me yet just about plausible The most significant examples are that Desdemona and Lefty get away with their relationship and that no one realises Calliope as he originally is is not a girl There are others though such as teenage fumblings and at which point Cal clearly understood that I wasn t a girl but something in between though the boy involved did notSome of the ignorance is cultivated When Desdemona and Lefty fake a courtship on the boat Lefty never discouraged any speculation He seized the opportunity of transatlantic travel to reinvent himself Aware that whatever happened now would become the truth Playing out this imaginary flirtation they began to believe it it wasn t other travellers they were trying to convince it was themselvesForgetting also matters Everything about Middlesex the house spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of forgettingThere are echoes of Greek mythology throughout which gives a certain weight and tone to how Cal tells it For instance An infinite number of possible selves crowded the threshold as Cal s parents prepare to conceive him and it s no coincidence that his childhood church was the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church and that they later move to Middlesex Boulevard It also creates an additional layer of foreshadowing Cal s father is conceived after his parents see a play about a hybrid monster and at a significant medical appointment about Cal Milton Cal s father wears traditional Tragedy and Comedy masks as cufflinks which way will it goSexSexual identity is key Desdemona is obsessed with predicting the sex of unborn children and Cal himself was only conceived because his parents really wanted a girl they already had a son and believed they had found a way to improve the odds of that He was born at the women s hospital and It was all around me from the beginning the weight of female suffering with its biblical justification and vanishing acts Nothing unusual was noticed by the elderly doctor so Five minutes old and already the themes of my life chance and sex announced themselvesThere is relatively little about Cal s adaptation to living as a man though there is a sweet sideline in learning how to date women the perils of what to tell them when etc Most of the story leads up to that realization the agonies of not developing when her friends do then growing oddly tall and awkward struggling with infatuation with girls etc However there are glimpses of the adult issues I m not androgynous when Calliope surfaces she does so like a childhood speech impediment It s a little like being possessed Callie rises up inside me wearing my skin like a loose robe But then just as suddenly she is leaving shrinking and melting away inside me Cal is currently in Berlin and This once divided city reminds me of myself A childhood trip to Cyprus was cancelled by annexation Cyprus was being cut in half like all the other places in the world that were no longer one thing or the otherIt is incest that causes Cal s condition but there is no rancour in the telling of the story perhaps because it s not just Desdemona and Lefty Other cousins married each other Cal s parents are cousins conceived on the same day who grew up together and even some couples who are not related by blood have a rather incestuous aspect a much older husband who treats his wife in some ways like a daughter an engaged couple who split only for the spurned man to marry the sister of her new boyfriend one sibling suggesting another experiment with masturbation a first sexual encounter with a best friend s brother followed by intimacy with the friend But none of it s salacious A uiet irony is that the English test at Ellis Island is about eunuchs DesdeomonaCal s grandmother is central to the book In many ways they have very contrasting lives but there are surprising parallels too After an initial coldness there is a special bond between them Desdemona disapproved of Milton and Tessie marrying of trying to choose their sex of the baby and was then upset when her prediction of a boy was wrong However she was uickly won over at which point Cal gave Desdemona back her original sinShe had been an innocent village girl surprised by developments of her own body as well as her heart and that of her brother Her body was a constant embarrassment to her It was always announcing itself in ways she didn t want to sanctionher body was still a stranger to its owner which applies just as much to Cal Similarly just as Desdemona had to reinvent herself as wife instead of sister and forge an identity in a new country Callie becomes Cal Like a stroke victim as Lefty was I was having to learn all the most simple skills and I was like an immigrant to the world of men Diagnosis and Treatment What Determines GenderFrom my birth when they went undetected to my baptism where they upstaged the priest to my troubled adolescence when they didn t do much of anything and then did everything at once my genitals have been the most significant thing that ever happened to meGender is not always clearcut determined by a variety of influences chromosomal sex gonadal sex hormones internal genital structures external genitals and most important the sex of rearing The last is the belief of the doctor who saw it as like a native tongue imprinted in the brain during childhood Cal raised as a girl proves otherwiseCal s father looks to medicine to fix her problem and both parents react differently Milton heard the words that were there He heard treatment and effective Tessie on the other hand heard the words that weren t there The doctor hadn t said my name He hadn t said daughter either He didn t use any pronouns Cal is left poised between the print of genetics and the White Out of surgery But we re all made up of many partsControversy Appropriateness and SensitivitySome uestion Eugenides right to write a book like this He is Greek American but does not have any intersex condition and is not a trans person Further Cal and his doctors uses the term hermaphrodite which many find offensive when applied to peopleAs a straight cis woman with no medical background I guess I am not really in a position to defend against such criticisms Nevertheless I think those who actually read it would find it hard to take offence at the sensitive and insightful way this aspect is portrayed As for the H word I expect it s what doctors in the 1960s would have used and there are still places where 5 Alpha Reductase Deficiency is described in such terms Eugenides has said The story of Hermaphroditus the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite is one I retell in modern guise in two different sections of the book and I m referring not to a person or a group of people but to a literary character From For me one of the bigger issues is the focus of mid teen Cal s desires The Obscure Object Calling a girl or woman an object can t be good can it Yet it doesn t come across as objectifying in the usual sense It s a way of preserving anonymity and distance reflecting her special idolised position in Cal s life More troubling is the the issue of consent view spoilerIf one partner is apparently asleep but enjoying things and the pattern is repeated over many nights is that OK As a plain uestion I d say not but the way it s described I m inclined to sit firmly on the fence Another tricky aspect is the exploitation or not of sex workers even if it s dressed up as empowerment I m not convinced it is hide spoiler

review Middlesex

Nessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of before moving out to the tree lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe Michigan To understand why Calliope is not like other girls she has to uncover a guilty family. This would have been better as an NPR story or an episode of This American Life than a novel Or maybe if someone other than Eugenides had written it An interesting idea and a few engrossing sex scenes I like the crocus and the peep tank and the whole long flirtation with The Object drew me in completely and a nice two pages toward the end when Julie accepts Cal for what he is But the prose was awful freuent maneuvers like And me That s simple I was are really unacceptable And Sing Muse of Greek ladies and their battle against unsightly hair is about as funny as poop Except for the incest the long family history plot was like a mashup of immigrant dramas from cable TV Greek family barely escapes home country to make it to the United States where they wander through 20th century history in a dull procession of unmotivated Gumpy forays into Wikipedia that have no effect whatsoever on their character development Now we ll shove these characters through Prohibition mass production the Detroit race riots The partition of Cyprus San Francisco hippies the tragedy of Michael Dukakis s helmet moment and the founding of the Nation of Islam The incest part of the story was good in the beginning the early love scenes between the grandparents are wonderful and then impressively tedious Desdemona feels guilt and then she feels guilt again The metaphors are embarassingly bad Cal lives on a street named Middlesex and eventually finds reconciliation of the two sides of himself in Berlin after reunification Why not have Desdemona live on I Feel Guilty For Sleeping With My Brother Boulevard Cal remains completely undefined as a character except in terms of his understandably tough time figuring out his own identity confused isn t much of a character Everyone else in the book fails to exist at all Jimmy Zizmo turns out to be the founder of the Nation of Islam Eugenides says self importantly that you ve probably guessed that no Not only did I not guess it it doesn t make any sense logical or emotional and it s completely uninteresting Why not have him turn out to be Richard Nixon Uncle Mike turns out to be a psychopath who extorts his own family Why Who cares Cal s lack of voice or character is the worst thing if your book aims to show readers what it s like inside the world of an intersex person you should show us that world from the inside in a way that makes sense or at least a way that s interesting Cal has no voice no face no identity What voice there is is completely inconsistent with his behavior the current Cal is reticent shy depressed lonely and retiring our narrator is open boisterous discursive ironic omniscient for no particular reason and irritatingly jokey And the book no has ideas about sexuality than it does about Cal s character As one reviewer said the most disappointing thing about the book is it ends up reinforcing stereotyped dumb ideas about gender like Breasts have the same effect on me as on anyone with my testosterone level as if there were no gays Callie s pursuit of The Object doesn t make her uestion categories it just convinces her she s a boy There is no middle sex here there s no middle ground it s gawking than Tiresias like insight

review Ö PDF, eBook or Kindle ePUB free ´ Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition era Detroit wit. I got off the bus from Bumbershoot around 1 AM exhausted Convinced that even the cars speeding past my window couldn t keep me from this night s rest I opened the door to a stench of exceptional vileness Not a dead stench or a spoiled food stench This was the stench of sewage From a spot in the center of the living room I surveyed the apartment and discovered the source the commode and the area around it were covered in yuck I dialed up the landlord The exchange went something like this There s shit on my floor Why mince words What do you want me to do about it I want you to fix my toilet so there won t be shit on my floor Have you tried a plunger What do you think And that didn t work After 20 minutes of this verbal badminton I realized the man wasn t going to get out of bed without a signed act of congress He told me there was an all night Denny s down the street should I need a toilet during the night So it was that at 2 AM after multiple rounds of cleaning and yakking I found myself seated in the kitchen on a kibble filled bucket a can of beer in one hand and Middlesex in the other There was a place halfway between consciousness and unconsciousness where Tessie did her best thinking I d had two weeks to kill awaiting the arrival of all my worldly possessions Plenty of time to determine that the kibble bucket was ergonomically preferable to the floor or my sleeping bag With my front door situated not five feet from a four lane road and one block from a strip bar whose patrons seemed to enjoy loitering in front of my building the noise was like steel wool on my nerves which were already shot from a marathon cross country drive with three cats a dog and a friend who was hitching a ride to her father s funeral in St Louis all crammed into my car With no job no friends no furniture and now apparently no plumbing this move was beginning to look like a profound error in judgment The story of a 5 Alpha Reductase Pseudohermaphrodite proved a likely escape When you travel like I did vague about destination and with an open ended itinerary a holy seeming openness takes over your character I d only brought one book on my trip west Considerable thought went into the choice it had to be an author with a proven ability to hold my interest It had to be long enough to cover the duration of the journey And it would need to stand up to multiple readings in the event of the delay of the moving truck or my inability to obtain a library card As a creative writing major I d read The Virgin Suicides and marveled at the rotating first person narrative the subtlety of the prose and the fine edge between humor and poignance Middlesex seemed a safe betThe book was my constant companion After a day of fruitless job interviews I could go home to Callie Stephanides and her family safe in the knowledge that there were over 200 pages to go before I d need to find a new distraction But the new distraction had already found me I hadn t written anything longer than a grocery list in 8 years With all the time in the world and a good book as your muse aspirations can get pretty lofty Even back then the Great Books were working on me silently urging me to pursue the most futile human dream of all the dream of writing a book worthy of joining their number I won t say that Middlesex turned me into a writer or anything lofty like that The first time I saw Singin in the Rain I nearly concussed myself trying run up a wall When I reached the last word I closed the book Waited five minutes Began again I was born twice first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960 and then again as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey Michigan in August of 1974


About the Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extractionEugenides was born in Detroit Michigan of Greek and Irish descent He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University graduating in He later earned an MA in Creative Writing from Stanford UniversityIn.



10 thoughts on “Middlesex

  1. says:

    I got off the bus from Bumbershoot around 1 AM exhausted Convinced that even the cars speeding past my window couldn’t keep me from this night’s rest I opened the door to a stench of exceptional vileness Not a dead stench or a spoiled food stench This was the stench of sewage From a spot in the center of th

  2. says:

    Don't judge a book by its coverI'd seen this book on the shelves of a number of friends and in the arms of a number of travelers so I decided to pick it up The title Middlesex suggested English countryside to me On the cover was what looked like a steamship and a uote on the back began Part Tristram Shanty part Ishmael So I came to the foolish conclusion that this was some 19th century English seafaring novel

  3. says:

    “I was born twice first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petoskey Michigan in August of 1974” I'd heard Middlesex was about a character who was born intersex and raised as a girl a compelling enough premise on its own but I didn't realize this book was a rich complex family drama spanning multiple generations an

  4. says:

    Alright it’s high time I review this hermaphroditic little masterpieceBeing a pseudo biochemist pseudo in the sense that I only pretend to be a biochemist whereas in reality I write scientific development reports and other documents that no

  5. says:

    This would have been better as an NPR story or an episode of This American Life than a novel Or maybe if someone other than Eugenides had written it An interesting idea and a few engrossing sex scenes I like the crocus and the peep tank and the whole long flirtation with The Object drew me in completely and a nice two pages towar

  6. says:

    Exactly the flawless masterpiece you've heard it is I've read hundreds of novels in my day this is in the top 3 On eual shelf with A Confederacy of Dunces Blonde My own personal trifecta perfecta The THE the best novels of ALL TIME I will never stop lauding this book Unbelievable mythic; the stuff from the Gods to anyone

  7. says:

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is a surprising and wonderfully written story about the life of CalliopeCal Stephanopolis who in the op

  8. says:

    This isn’t so much a review as an embarrassing story I gave the book four stars for a reason The writing is beautiful I would recommend it Now onwards to my shameSo Brooke and I were standing in line to meet Eugenides Please understand it was a really long line after a similarly long day at work We passed the time chitchatting about this and that at our workplace and life in general By the time the organizer offered

  9. says:

    This is a book about transitionTransition from child to adult to parent and grandparentFrom native to immigrantFrom brother and sister to husband and wifeFrom rural dweller to urbaniteFrom modest affluence to pove

  10. says:

    Some people inherit houses; others paintings or highly insured violin bows Still others get a Japanese tansu or a famous name I got a recessive gene on my fifth chromosome and some very rare family jewels indeedLet me say first that Jeffrey Eugenides is an extraordinary storyteller Why I’ve waited so long to read one of his book

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