Der zweite Schlaf: Roman

by Robert Harris

Other authorsWolfgang Müller (Translator)
Ebook, 2019



Call number

HN 9990 H313 Z9



Heyne Verlag (2019), 417 pages


"From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherland and the Cicero Trilogy--a chilling and dark new thriller unlike anything Robert Harris has done before. 1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artifacts--coins, fragments of glass, human bones--which the old parson used to collect. Did his obsession with the past lead to his death? Fairfax becomes determined to discover the truth. Over the course of the next six days, everything he believes--about himself, his faith, and the history of his world--will be tested to destruction"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member drmaf
Intriguing novel spoilt by a rushed and unsatisfactory ending. Christopher Fairfax is a young priest in 1400s Wessex journeying to a small village to conduct the funeral of the village priest. The big reveal is made very matter of factly 10 pages in, it is in fact several hundred years after the
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collapse of technological society, science is outlawed and the Church rules. Fairfax discovers forbidden books produced by an antiquarian society dealing with the collapse, and has to choose between his faith and his desire to solve the mystery of why technological society fell. He is assisted by a local lady whom he falls in love with, her fiancée the local squire and an eccentric philosopher facing a death sentence for heresy. The novel is praiseworthy for the suspense it builds, totally wrecked though by an anticlimactic and very rushed ending, and its very valid questions about the fragility of our advanced society and what will come after. Certainly worth reading, but be warned, the last couple of pages will make you want to throw the book against the nearest wall.
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LibraryThing member John_Warner
This novel began strong, simmered nicely in the middle, but ended with a whimper. It is as if the author ran out of steam with its abrupt ending leaving a number of loose ends untied. Although I believed this to a standalone novel, now I'm not too sure. It is as if the author is setting the stage
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for a sequel.

The novel opens in the year 1468 with our protagonist, Fr. Christopher Fairfax assigned to the cathedral city of Exeter, England being directed by the Bishop to celebrate at the funeral of the pastor of the distant village, Addicott St. George, who recently died after a fall from a nearby geological outcropping called the Devil's Chair. Shortly after he arrives, Fairfax discovers that the pastor's office contains a number of heretical documents.

When I first began reading this novel, I believed I was reading a medieval mystery similar to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. However when Fairfax also discovers that the local parson's office includes a collection of artifacts, such as a plastic rectangular object with the symbol of an apple with a bite taken out of it, that I wasn't reading a medieval mystery. The year is actually the number of years after a major catastrophic event which has driven the world to a pre-technological state. No one remembers exactly what the catastrophe was that created a now dystopic environment. Additionally, the church has become arbiter of which actions are heretical with full authority to punished the heretics.

If this book is the prequel to other books, I might re-evaluate my rating; however, for now it stands because it of its abrupt and dissatisfying climax.
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LibraryThing member JulieStielstra
A reliable librarian friend recommended this one - he liked it, even though Harris is not one of his favorite writers. As someone with a fondness for medieval settings, I dove right in happily enough. Hit a snag early on when Christopher Fairfax "dug his knees into the flanks of his mare," as
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anyone who actually rides a horse would know this was pretty impossible. But never mind. I got a laugh-out-loud moment when the bitten-apple logo appeared, and figured at least this would be fun. And it was, mostly. The setup and premise is interesting, speculating on the aftermath of a world-shaking cataclysm (reminded me of the freakouts we all had over Y2K) that ruined the world of airplanes and iPhones and The Cloud, sending the world back into a "Second Sleep" of civilization, slowly coming to life again. But... characters are thin (Hancock's bluff, superhuman stubbornness; the usual independent-woman love interest), and it devolves into a dark, wet, muddy mess. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, many others have noted they didn't like the ending - but can't / don't want to explain why. Does it just not turn out the way they had hoped or expected? Or were they disappointed in how it was realized? I have no trouble with ambiguous / unclear / unhappy endings, so the one we get serves as well as anything else might have. It was a fairly engaging read, better written than a lot in the popular genre, and had some good moments, but nothing outstanding. Not sorry I spent a couple evenings in the Year of Our Lord 1468, but probably won't seek out Mr. Harris's company again.
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LibraryThing member SocProf9740
That one missing star is because there are too many loose ends, not enough background, and the pay-off is a bit too small.
The fun bit is you start reading a story you think is taking place in the 1400s but soon realize it's 1400 long after our time. For reasons largely unknown, the Internet
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collapsed and so did our societies, reverting to medieval-style, pre-industrial, monarchical, feudal theocracy. The premise is that, in this new world, young priest Fairfax is sent out to the middle of rural England after the current priest has died. Looks like the old priest engaged in what is now considered heresy (like collecting old tech). Documents go missing and the new priest starts investigating. That's about as much as can be revealed without spoiling.
But again, this whole thing amounts not to a whole lot, which is disappointing.
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LibraryThing member TedWitham
The Second Sleep is set several centuries into the future after the great collapse of civilisation. A powerful – and fundamentalist – church has taken power while England has returned to pre-industrial conditions: there are no cars, and therefore roads are poor. The fastest travel is
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horse-back. Village life centres around small-scale horticulture, providing just enough for the villagers.

A young priest is sent to a tiny village in Exmoor to bury the parish priest who has died after decades in the same parish. He discovers a world of secrets, from the housekeeper’s relationship to the old priest, to the illegal search for evidence of pre-collapse civilisation.

Many of his discoveries take place between the first and second sleeps, as people have reverted to the pre-electric light habit of having a period of waking between two stretches of sleep. ‘The Second Sleep’ begins to take on more meanings as the novel progresses.

Robert Harris is known for his novels of Ancient Rome (Imperium, Lustrum, Pompeii) and of institutions under stress including the army and the church (An Officer and a Spy, Conclave). He writes page-turners, and his writing is simple and clear. You feel the mud and slush of unpaved streets and the smell of animals sharing living space with humans.

The Second Sleep is a compelling novel of the new genre of cli-fi (climate science fiction). Itis a meditation on our world on the brink of great destruction, perhaps brought about by climate change, perhaps not, and our values of freedom and progress.

Harris makes no final judgement as to which is worse, our world or his dystopia, but The Second Sleep is an appeal to maintain an open society in which power is shared between citizens and not centralised in a power-hungry institution.

It is also a novel of finding love and the difficulty of holding onto love in a repressive society. After a slow start with the characters, I enjoyed the priest Fairfax, his Lady, Sarah Durston, and Captain Hancock.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I thought about giving up on this book a few chapters in, and in retrospect I wish I had. It was just engaging enough to keep me going, but ultimately it didn't really go anywhere.

It's set in a post-apocalyptic future. Something has happened to wipe out all technology, and society has basically
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reverted to the Middle Ages, sort of. There is no explanation of how the Catholic Church ended up becoming the dominant religious and apparently political structure. There is no explanation as to why society went backwards to something that resembles the Middle Ages instead of forwards to something new. There is no explanation (other than "The Catholic Church is repressive") for why science and technology and other forms of learning have been repressed.

The book is kind of a murder mystery - a young priest has been sent to a small town to perform a funeral for the village priest. He soon begins to suspect that there is more to the death than meets the eye, and realizes that the dead priest was involved in a secret society that collected forbidden information about the technology of the civilization that existed before the apocalypse.

The characters are all very flat and trite - there's the naïve young priest, the attractive worldly older woman who is inappropriately independent, the brutish rich man who is determined to control the woman, the oppressive powerful bishop, and the aging charlatan heretic who knows all the forbidden secrets. The women are all attractive (except for an old crone) and all attracted to the priest. Harris tosses these characters together with a bunch of pre-industrial stereotypes, and the story builds and builds, and then he doesn't seem to know what to do with it and it ends all of a sudden.

The best I can say for it is that it's engaging, but there is really nothing original here, and the book doesn't seem to have any point.
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LibraryThing member starkravingmad
Medieval England? think again. This is an England 800+ years from now. Harris creates a dystopic futuristic world where progress and science are viewed as evils. Page turner for the first 90% but the ending is a disappointment.
LibraryThing member antao
“The Second Sleep” is set 80 years in the future (which puts it at 2800 AD) though the year is described in the book as being “the Year of Our Risen Lord 1468”. I shall say no more…

I was so looking forward to reading Robert Harris's “The Second Sleep” that I think I gave it too much
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of a build up. I'm a fan of 'post-apocalyptic' novels and he's such a good author, it seemed a marriage made in heaven. But all that changed inexorably as I read deeper - the future he imagines has been done to death already. Why must we always be seen to be slipping back into something resembling what has gone before? The 17thC as a trope for future re-imaginings is tiresome. It's not a foregone conclusion that we return to a kind of semi-feudal state, or that superstition and re-entrenched religion command our lives and yet this seems to be the way of things in schlocky sci fi, of which, I'm disappointed to say, 'The Second Sleep' is a prime example. The ending seemed rushed too, as though Mr. Harris wanted a quick way out of a narrative that he also felt himself bogged down in. From a masterful storyteller I expect better than this. Oh well, better luck next time, Robert (see, projection doesn't always have to be gloomy!).

I would highly recommend “Little Bird” by Darcy Van Poelgeest, Ian Bertram and Matt Hollingsworth. It's a comic series about a war between a fundamentalist Catholic United Nations of America and a liberal and secular Canada. It's quite heavy on the SF so it might not be everyone's cup of tea but it touches on the same themes as similar premises such as “The Handmaid's Tale” but of course with beautiful and intricate drawings by Ian Bertram and fantastic colours by Matt Hollingsworth.

It's a disturbing thought that the modern world, with its Enlightenment values and scientific progress, might be a historical blip. The industrial revolution is the material basis for it all, and what's left to sustain it once we've squandered those resources? Of course, Enlightenment values did not come into being out of the blue. They have had antecedents throughout history. As has science and empiricism. All ancient cultures did science. They all exercised scepticism - maybe a bit less than they could have, but then they did not have the luxury of vast amounts of data. They all asked questions about the role of the state, and the responsibility of rulers towards their subjects. They may not have reached the same answers as the Enlightenment, but the striving towards greater knowledge, and better forms of social organisation, was universal.

SF = Speculative Fiction.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 A versatile author who has tackled everything from Pompeii to the election of the pope in Conclave. In this one he presents the reader with another unique plot, one I will not discuss as it would be deemed as ruining the read for others. I will say it is done well, is a very interesting concept
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and presents a moral dilemma for a young priest. The characters are varied, and a few not what they seem.

The book was going along nicely, was thoroughly immersed in the story, wondering where it would lead and how it would end, when it went off the rails. Wish the ending wouldn't have been as melodramatic as it turned out, I was enjoying the literay flavor of the read, and the ending put to much into too short of page amount. I did though enjoy the stories originality, so there is that. Pros and cons, but still worth reading.

ARC from Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member hadden
An interesting book and a good read. A misty, medieval England is the setting for this novel where a young priest is sent out to a remote village to bury the vicar who died under, perhaps, mysterious circumstances. Like the priest, the reader must follow the clues to find the story behind the given
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facts. Soon, the reader realizes this is not a story from the past, but from the future, when civilizations collapses and must be re-discovered. However, science and research are forbidden, and the dead priest had evidently been involved in digging for artifacts from the past.
Entertaining and well written, the book sets the stage for what is apparently planned for a sequel. As others have said, this book reminds me of the 1959 novel, "A Canticle for Leibowitz", by Walter M. Miller. A sense of feeling that past years were better than the current ones adds to the dystopian atmosphere of the book. I also like any book that quotes freely from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Like other reviewers, I feel the dénouement was abrupt and the reader is left hanging. I hope this is because a sequel is on the way, which I truly would like to read. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member auntmarge64
Post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction that never quite gels.

In a future middle ages, a young priest is sent on a 30-mile journey from Exeter to bury the priest of a small hamlet. He discovers that the priest was interested in antiquities, a heretical study condemned by the church with prison
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sentences, branding, and sometimes execution. Despite himself, the priest gets drawn into the subject and risks everything to try to uncover what the dead priest was searching for when he fell to his death from a nearby hill. It's an interesting premise, has the feel of "A Canticle for Leibowitz" to some extent, but it doesn't quite hold together, and the ending didn't work with the book as a whole.
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LibraryThing member davidroche
As well as visiting the North East, I nipped along to south west London’s Wimbledon Book Festival last week to hear Robert Harris talk about his latest book The Second Sleep (Hutchinson). It seems that more than one of our nation’s best-loved novelists is looking to the future to try and make
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sense of where we are now. The author confirmed that there is no point in writing Fiction about our current predicament - it is beyond the plausible, nd every time you think that events and the cast of characters have stretched it to braking point, along comes a pole-dancing American who is an IT expert. About to dive in...
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
Something a bit different from the author's previous novels, which were straight historical fiction or alternative historical fiction: "What-if" novels, if you will. Transition from one era to the other well done in this story. I couldn't put the book down and once I figured out the
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premise--technology will end up biting us--I was shivery all through. I was confused for awhile, though. The first half I thought better than the last. I liked the scene-setting and the slow build-up. The final reveal and explanation was rushed and a bit of an anti-climax but it did fit into the narrative.
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LibraryThing member rkstafford
Clever story of a post-apocalyptic priest in a small English village
LibraryThing member quondame
Well written and smooth flowing, a young priest in and England several hundred years after the apocalypse encounters material he knows is forbidden and jumps in with both feet. This hasn't the richness or the feeling of two other priest in post apocalypse setting books I know of, and really there
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doesn't seem much point.
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LibraryThing member RBeffa
The Second Sleep is without a doubt a change of pace for Robert Harris. It would seem to be set in Thomas Hardy's Wessex if the epigraph to the story is a double meaning hint. One thinks at first that this is a story set in the 1400's in Wessex, but it is actually a dystopian future tale set 800
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years in the future from the Fall, which we can surmise from the evidence given near the start of the story happened in 2025. Our very near future. This may seem spoilery but this twist is all revealed quite early in the pages. The rest of the story is a tale that I seem to have enjoyed more than most readers of Harris.

The story is centered on a young priest who is sent to a very rural village. Harris provides the reader with interesting well developed characters and a mystery or two to puzzle out with the priest. I would tend to agree with other readers that the first half or so of the novel is the better part and the second half lackluster. The ending is very underwhelming and a disappointment. I also think things may be left open for a followup novel, but we shouldn't need that for what we should have had at the end of this one.

There is enough in here to give a reader something to think about, maybe something you have noticed happening over the past 25 years, and the consequences of that. I was also a little intrigued with the subject of the title - something I had never ever considered before, that human sleep patterns may have been very different before gas and electric lighting. And I don't mean an early to bed early to rise function of rural existence.

In sum I liked this quite a bit.
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LibraryThing member Ken-Me-Old-Mate
Everything I have read by Robert Harris I have enjoyed immensely. This book is no exception.

There is a degree of mindfuckery going on here but I wont spoil it by telling you how that works, just be prepared to be surprised and surprised again when the surprise you get is not the surprise you were
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expecting. The body of a good mystery gets uncovered again and again.

Superficially simple, but anything but.

Very enjoyable indeed.
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LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
Robert Harris certainly sold me the dummy with this book. It opens in 1468 with Christopher Fairfax, a newly ordained curate riding to officiate at the funeral of Father Lacey, the deceased priest of a parish in deepest Wessex. All well and good. I was brought up short, however, when Fairfax
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stopped to pull out a pipe, and light a match. Surely a historical novelist of Harris’s advanced pedigree could not have stumbled into such a clear anachronism.

All gradually becomes clear, however, when we discover that, far from being set in the past, this is a novel of the future, set some eight hundred years after a catastrophe which had seen the twenty-first century world go through a major systemic meltdown which resulted in the loss of electronic and industrial capacity, along with a resurgence of religious belief. Society is gradually re-established, with Christian faith forming a far more significant pillar of life that at any time for several centuries, and the calendar is recalibrated to begin at the suitably apocalyptic year of 666.

Fairfax duly conducts the funeral, and stays on in Father Lacey’s house for a few days, celebrating communion and undertaking several priestly duties in the area. He also discovers that Father Lacey had had a deep, and perhaps unhealthy, interest in history. Among the records and general paraphernalia in his study are some old correspondence relating to investigations of the years immediately preceding The Fall, along with some strange devices which the reader clearly identifies as mobile phones and tablets. Such interests are frowned upon by the Church, and constitute heresy.

Harris depicts all this with his customary vigour, and verisimilitude is bolstered by the occasional, even casual, drip feed of information about the nature of the apocalypse, and the stages by which society had been re-established. He always writes well, with engaging, empathetic characters and plausible story lines. I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as some of his other novels, but I still felt he had succeeded in weaving a gripping story.
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LibraryThing member ericlee
Robert Harris often has the very best ideas for his books, but sometimes the book itself is a real let-down. The Second Sleep is an example of this. First of all, his good idea -- the big reveal -- comes very early in the book. What seems at first to be a tale set in Medieval England turns out to
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be set 800 years in the future -- as we quickly learn when an Apple iPhone turns up unexpectedly. And that's basically it. Nothing else very interesting happens. The books builds up to the digging out of an 800 year old buried chamber to reveal -- well, let's just say that it is one of the most unsatisfying endings I've read in a recent book. Not recommended.
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LibraryThing member INeilC
An intelligent imagining of the collapse of our civilisation.
LibraryThing member SandDune
It's the year 1468 and the young priest Christopher Fairfax is making his way on horseback to the village of Addicott St George in the South-West of England. As he makes his way across the moorland he is startled by a flash of green: he is relieved to see that it is 'Nothing more sinister than a
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common parakeet' but it's the first sign to the reader that all is not as it seems. Parakeets are non-native birds that have been found in and around London for the last thirty to forty years or so. There are breeding flocks now but they were originally escapees from pet shops or aviaries: they certainly aren't found in the West Country and definitely not in the Middle Ages. Fairfax is visiting Addicott to conduct the funeral for its previous parish priest, a collector of antiquities, who in pride of place in his collection has a strange device marked with a bitten apple ...

This was a page turner of a book, and while it didn't end up where I was expecting, the ending was nonetheless very satisfying ...
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LibraryThing member DramMan
An inventive tale but somewhat short of excellent , so a bit disappointing- compared to Harris's other work - Archangel, the Cicero Trilogy etc
LibraryThing member Estramir
Robert Harris looks into the future and sees...the past. This is not the classic dystopian novel though, more like a rollicking adventure which just happens to be set in the future. The good news is that books still fulfill an important function in the future, the bad news is that everything else
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is pretty much gone and forgotten. There's a great first chapter which ends in a stunning revelation. For me, however the rest of the novel didn't quite live up to expectations. The ideas behind the story are thought provoking, and truly frightening, given the current state of the world. The story itself is in the category of 'a good yarn'.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
The cover of this novel (the silhouette of a hooded figure on a horse in front of a Norman church tower) and the blurb led me to believe this was a medieval murder mystery. But only a few pages in, an anachronism: reference to a "patchwork quilt." I know (but maybe a lot of people don't know) there
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were no patchwork quits in the Middle Ages. But this was a small thing. But then there were references to artifacts from the past--made of plastic. Huh?

Anyway, the novel is set in 1468. A young priest has arrived in a remote village to conduct the funeral for the village priest who has died under mysterious circumstances. His death may be related to his hobby of collecting artifacts from the past, including strange devices embossed with the symbol of the devil--an apple with a bite taken out of it. The mystery of course is what caused civilization to collapse, and why are people continuing to live in primitive circumstances.

This was a nice quick read. Nothing earth-shatteriing, but definitely diverting. Recommended for escapist reading.

3 stars.
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LibraryThing member Bridgey
A bit of a strange book this one, I really enjoyed the idea of a plot set in the middle ages especially after having read Conclave and enjoying it. I don't think I can really describe the plot in too much detail without creating spoilers, but we follow a young priest - Christopher Fairfax , who has
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been sent to a remote English village in order to bury the former vicar - Thomas Lacy. However, there seems to be something a little odd surrounding the life of the recently deceased father, and in a world dominated by the church it appears as if he has broken rank and taken interest in science. On a daily basis new artefacts are being found that point to a different history to that being taught in the pulpits, but at the risk of being deemed a heretic will Fairfax delve deeper?

Brilliant idea for a book and the first half 2/3rds was really page turning, but the ending was just such a let down. It was almost as if Harris couldn't wait to get it done or simply ran out of ideas, or more than likely committed himself to the book and the ending and didn't want to give up. It's not a bad read by any means but it definitely isn't his best. Worth a look though.
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417 p.
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