Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletters No. 666, 667, 668 and 669
Newsletter No. 666

Live from Hotel Josef, Monday
Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 4 June 2007


Breakfast once again with Jim Naughton. Teri and Sasha arrive and sit at a table next to ours. Talk, of course, turns to last night Theatre Minor. Pick up today’s Guardian. Quick visit to the Hotel Josef’s Media Center to check e-mail. It seems PJ received the blog I fired off to him last night and it is up now on the Prague Writers’ Festival Web site. Walk out into the lobby and bump into Michael March who says there is a press conference starting in a few minutes. Go down to the press area and see Vlasta and we gossip a bit.

On the platform this morning are Tom Sandqvist, Michael March, Adrian Notz, and Ludvik Kundera. And the fantastic interpreter, Jindra Dvorakova! Michael March relates how the theme for this years Writers’ Festival came to be and it seems that Tom Sandqvist and his book, DADA EAST played a major role. Adrian Notz, in his role of Director of International Projects at Cabaret Voltaire, tells us about how a group of people were able to get the city of Zurich to support the re-opening of the old Cabaret Voltaire. Adrian also says that the Swiss watch company, Swatch, is a major sponsor. Ludvik Kundera was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1920. He was sent to Nazi Germany as a forced-laborer during the Second World War. When he returned, he established the Czech surrealist group Ra. He went on the write some thirty theatre, radio and TV plays, more than twenty books of poetry, dozens of essays. In the 1980s, he published DADA, a samizdat anthology of Dadaism. A very interesting gathering.

Talk afterwards with Tom Sandqvist and Adrian Notz. Somehow mention the World Passport that I created with Garry Davis in the early 1970s. And the fact that I traveled with it from Switzerland to Italy and then back into France. And that for a number of years my home in Paris served as the Embassy for World Government and we issued passports to one and all seven days a week from morning to night. In fact the whole thing is (and was) pure Dada. I kick myself for not bring a World Passport with me to Prague. Tell them as well about the Criminal action that the French government brought against us in the early 70s, that we were found guilty of “confusing the public”. Charges were dropped against me if I elected to stop issuing World Passports from my home. I agreed to do so. But Garry Davis moved to Vermont and still continues to issue these World Passports.

Go upstairs and learn that a taxi has been called to take Peter Stephan Jungk and myself to the Israeli Ambassador’s residence for a lunch. On the way there, I sign a copy of my manifesto, Workers of the World, Unite and Stop Working! and pass it to Peter. An attractive woman greets us and says that the Ambassador will arrive to join us shortly. I walk out on the terrace and find myself talking with Lara Woolston from London. She says that she is organizing a story-telling society. I tell her that I have a friend in Paris who has created such an organization in Paris and that it has been extremely successful. Tell her to contact me and I will put her into contact with him. The buffet lunch is soon on the table and dozens of starving writers are filling plates. The Ambassador greets us and gets Abraham Yehoshua to say a few words. He makes a short speech declaring that only the Israeli Ambassador forces a writer “to pay” for his lunch in this fashion, that Tom did not have to do this at the Swedish party, that Elena did not have to do this at the Romanian reception, that no American or Swiss writers will be forced to do this. It’s funny and charming. Talk a long time with the Swedish Ambassador, Catherine von Heidenstan, and she tells me that she has read my web site and finds the idea of the Sunday night salon very interesting and that in late July or early August, she hopes to pass through Paris and participate. I encourage her to do it. It seems it might be time to say my “thank-yous” and go outside and see if I can find a ride to the Hotel Josef. Encounter the Mexican Ambassador, Federico Salas, in the steps outside. Thank him for the party he hosted in 2002. He says he is leaving Prague for a new posting in Israel in a few days. I mention my trips to the Guadalajara Book Fair, my summer in Cuernavaca, friendships with Hector Manjarrez, meeting Carlos Fuentes, but stop short of telling him of my love for Mexican cuisine. He picks up on the name Carlos Fuentes and says he is off to the air port to collect him, that he arrives today in Prague. (And so does George Bush.)

I am beginning to wonder how I will get back into Prague when I see Abraham Yehoshua and his wife, Ika, walk out. It seems an official embassy car will take them back to the Hotel Josef. They ask if I would like to ride with them. Yes! Learn that they are flying to Israel after midnight tonight. I will miss them. Two extremely charming and warm human beings! The world needs more of them.

Back at the Josef, up to my room, and dive into bed for a brief nap.

Taxi with Helen and Edgar Doctorow and with Hannah to the Theatre Minor. There was a talk at 16.00 hours which we are missing. At 17.30 the Guardian conversation, “Thought begins in the mouth” – credited to Tristan Tzara – will feature E.L. Doctorow, Arnon Grunberg, Elena Sefoi, Peter Staphan Jungk, and Michael March as moderator. In many ways, the title of any discussion is not that important. But this session, once again, produces some inspired moments.

Then there is a break and we are back in the theatre again for three readings. Abraham Yehoshua reads briefly from an early novel, first in Hebrew and then in English. He is followed by Pavel Reznicek who reads his surreal poetry in Czech. Jim Naughton attempts to read the English translations for those of us with head phones, but in typical surreal fashion, Pavel has changed the order and even reads more poems than he said he would. The evening ends with Gary Snyder casting his spell over everyone. A delicious reading.

Ride back in a taxi to the Hotel Josef with Gary Snyder and his son, Gen. They are going out to dine with Dominique and Paul Kahn and I am invited to join them. I dearly would love to do so. Not only am I hungry, but it would also be fun and stimulating to be in this company. But duty calls. I must produce another day’s blog. Very late Teri and Sasha return to the hotel. I am spotted and Teri comes up to make sure I am OK. What a darling she is! Sasha, you are one lucky fellow. Soon finished, soon in bed.

Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes for the Prague Writers' Festival J Haynes blog , 4 June 2007
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris


Newsletter No. 667

Live from Hotel Josef, Tuesday
Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 5 June 2007


Sleep late for a change. Quick shower and out the door. Once again breakfast with Jim Naughtion. Once again Teri and Sasha sit at the table next to us. This is beginning to be habit. Teri looks like Pocahonas this morning, so that makes Sasha Miles Standish. She has her hair fixed in two braids.

Check email. Good old OJ writes that the Sunday blog is up on the Prague Writers’ Festival web site. (Yesterday I wrote by mistake wet site and when I asked PJ and Terry to correct it, they both said they liked the idea of wet site.)

Sit with Teri at the 10 o’clock press conference. Sasha is speaking about “home” when I enter. The rest of the panel consists of Peter Stephan Jungk, Arnon Grunberg and Michael March (as chairman). Arnon says he is in exile because he followed a woman to New York City, then fell in love with the city. Home for Arnon is when he goes into a restaurant and the waiters know his name. He also says he could be at home in a hotel room. He and I are in complete agreement. I must admit my room here at the Hotel Josef is nicer and bigger than my room in my atelier in Paris. The bathroom is also nicer here in the Hotel Josef. (Later in the day, I discuss this with Milena Findeis, the Assistant Manager of the Hotel Josef. She is surprised to learn that my room here is larger and nicer than my room in Paris. I have a large three floor studio in Paris, but I think I would trade it all for what I have here at the Josef.)

Peter Stephan Jungk has had a wandering life, from Austria to California and back to Austria again. His family took him back to Vienna, but enrolled him in an American School. They wanted him to master the German-language and to retain his English. In this, they (and Peter) were successful. He now lives in Paris, writes in German, and enjoys life in a French-speaking environment. Sasha Hemon began life in Bosnia, then moved to Chicago, now lives in Paris and is soon about to up-root himself and set off for Chicago once again. Sasha is wearing a T-shirt that states: Somewhere in Texas a village is missing its idiot (or words to that effect). George Bush arrived in Prague today. I was born in Louisiana, spent some teen years in Venezuela, lived three years in Atlanta, Georgia, university at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, military service in San Antonia, Texas and Edinburgh, Scotland, continued to live in Edinburgh after the military, studied at the university, created a bookshop and gallery, founded the Traverse Theatre, helped organize the Fringe Festival, moved to London and created another theatre, co-founded a newspaper and a magazine, an arts laboratory, moved to Amsterdam and Paris in 1969 and have been living happily in Paris some 38 years. And for a number of years made World Passports and have always considered that I was first and foremost a World Citizen.

Give Milena a copy of White Washing Fences, a book that some thirty friends have written that honors my life. Later she gives me a Hotel Josef baggage ring. Coffee outside the press conference room in the open air. What a beautifully designed hotel. Congratulate Michal Ginter, who was able to do such a beautiful job translating from Czech to English and back to Czech again. Flawlessly. (Seemingly.) Like Jindra Dvorakova yesterday. Learn that Michal speaks not only English and Czech, but also Russian, Polish and Slovak. And he is learning French. We talk a bit about languages. I also talk with Michael March who says that he is enjoying these daily blogs.

Upstairs in the lobby, find Adrian Notz sitting with his laptop. What a nice fellow he is. Hannah is there as well reading a novel ”written on yellow paper” which she says she is enjoying. Mollye joins us. I learn that Hannah has just collected James Meek from the airport. Tell Adrian that I must excuse myself to take a pee. He says: ”Tango que cambiar el agua de mi pajaron” which roughly translates as I must change my large bird’s water. This I must remember for the future.

Stroll to the Big Ben Booshop with Hannah, Peter Stephan Jungk, Arnon Grunberg, James Meek and Michael March. Michael March starts to introduce me to James Meek and I report that he and I met in Edinburgh via his publisher, Jamie Byng. Talk briefly with the owner of the Big Ben. His name is Miro. Tell him that I used to have a bookshop in Edinburgh.

Decide to walk back to the Hotel Josef and spot Lubos Snizek sitting and reading a newspaper. Interrupt this activity and we talk for a while. I learn that not only has he translated Gary Snyder into Czech, but also Gregory Corso, Diane di Prima, and Sherman Alexie. He is also an Editor at Mata Publishers. I give him an invitation to dine on Sunday at my atelier when he is next in Paris.

Sit in the lobby and talk with Milena about the Hotel Josef She tells me that the owner, Rudolf Ploberger, is from Austria and that it took him some seven years to get all the necessary permissions to build the hotel. She says that he used a Czech architect who left Prague in 1968 to live in London. Her name is Eva Jiricna. He also has another smaller hotel, the Maximilian, that is located just around the corner. The Hotel Josef opened officially the 23rd of June in 2002. And I stayed here in November 2003. Milena leaves me for a minute and returns with an interesting looking man. We are introduced and he is Rudolf Ploberger. I like him immediately and tell him how much I admire what he has achieved with this hotel. We talk a bit and then both he and Milena have things to do.

I go out for a stroll in the beautiful afternoon, all warm and sunny. For some reason, end up having mini burritos in a Mexican place called Hacienda Mexicana. I was looking for the restaurant where John Flattau and Susi Wyss and I ate back in 2003. But I am happy with my burritos.

There is a talk at 16.00 hours, “Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich” by Adrian Notz and “Citizen Serner” by Ludvik Kundera in the Municipal Library. Alas I missed them. Then at 17.30, there is another Guardian conversation entitled “Neutrality is a form of divinity” (A Joseph Roth quote.) Walk to the Municipal Library with Edward Mortimer, who will act as the moderator. The panel includes Gary Snyder, Peter Stephan Jungk, James Meek, and Sasha Hemon. Sit in the front row with Teri Hemon. As always it is a stimulating and fun conversation.

Afterwards, a bunch of us walk to the theatre Minor. Lara Woolston leads us all astray by suggesting beers in a small dark place next to the theatre. We all succumb. Hooray for Lara! And she treats us all.

Then at 19.30, there is an international evening with James Meek, Peter Stephan Jungk, and Arnon Grunberg all reading from their works. Again superb.

I sit and talk with a tall and very attractive young woman named Stanislava Simuniova. She buys a Peter Stephan Jungk novel in the original German-language direct from Peter via Miro’s bookstall. She is with an N.G.O. that helps people to help people. It is called Servitus. Learn that she spent a year in Siberia. Very interesting person. Adrian Notz takes a photograph of us with his new camera which he promises to send to PJ for the web site.

Ride back to the Hotel Josef with Gen and Gary Snyder. They invite me to join them for dinner, but once again I elect to write my blog and go to bed not too late.

Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes for the Prague Writers' Festival J Haynes blog , 5 June 2007
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris


Newsletter No. 668

Live from Hotel Josef, Wednesday
Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 6 June 2007


Another great night’s sleep. Jump into the shower, quickly dress and prepare to go downstairs for a morning treat. Notice there is a message left from the Hotel Josef staff. Steven Gove called and has asked that I call him. Pick up today’s Guardian and join Sasha, Teri and Elena.

Edgar Doctorow sits at a nearby table but he is busy reading The Guardian. Elena is feeling a bit ill and tired. This trip is supposed to be a restful vacation for her. Sasha excuses himself, disappears for a few minutes and returns with various medicines. I learn that Teri is expecting the arrival of a new family member in September. She looks great and I tell her so. The positive aspect of attending any conference is the friendships that develop. Here at the breakfast table are three perfect examples.

There is a 10 o’clock press conference. First, check e-mail and PJ lets me know that he has received another blog and that it is up on the Prague Writers’ Festival web site. Also receive a message from Neelima Mathur in New Delhi; she and her husband, Pramod, plan to attend a Sunday dinner the 1st of July and will stay one night in Paris. I fire off a quick reply and tell them that I expect them to stay in my atelier.

Up to my room for one minute and get a call from Steven Gove. He will pass in the afternoon. Downstairs for the press conference. On the panel: Michael March, Jindra Dvorakova, Edgar Doctorow, Elena Stefoi, and James Meek. Hannah arrives and sits next to me. Vlasta arrives and gives me a soft caress on my cheek. The press conferences are always interesting and amusing. Learn a lot about the three writers. James Meek talks about his years in Kiev and in Moscow. Learn that Doctorow’s grandparents were Russians. Elena talks about how she became a diplomat. And once again Jindra does an excellent job, moving rapidly from English to Czech and then back to English once again. When the conference ends, give her my congratulations.

Upstairs, before we head for lunch at the American Ambassador’s residence, talk with Helen Doctorow. Learn that she and Edgar have a home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. This leads to my asking if she has read Alan Furst. She says she has and that she is a fan. I confess to also being a fan. He is, also, a friend of mine and that I have followed his career since our first meeting in Paris almost twenty years ago. She knows that he lives in Sag Harbor. We talk about Alan’s books. And then it is time to go to lunch. Ride to the American Ambassador’s residence with Vlasta and with Helen and Edgar Doctorow.

We are welcomed at the American Embassy residence by the Ambassador, Richard Graber, by Michael Hahn, who handles Press and Culture, and by Michael Feldman, who is the Cultural Attaché. The embassy residence is over the top. Very beautiful. A small palace. It’s too much for me, But I can guess others might find it just their cup of tea.. The Ambassador gives us some words of welcome. And tells us the history of the building. Then he asks Michael March to say a few words and I must say I am very proud of Michael because he gives an excellent short talk, comparing the U.S. Constitution, not only to literature, but as a code that protects American citizens. Bravo, Michael! Then we are invited to help ourselves to a table over-flowing with delicious things to eat. I see the Israeli Ambassador, Arie Arazi, and his wife, Ruth, and thank them again for their hospitality on Monday. Also spot Ivana Bozdechova and we exchange smiles and news. Sit with Michal Prochazka and we talk about the festival and how much fun it is. Ivana and I go for coffee and sit on a couch with Helena Stehlikova, who is the Press Assistant in the American Embassy in Prague, and with Paula Holotnakova, who is the Press Assistant in the American Embassy in Bratsilava. Helena offers to show me the view of Prague from the Embassy that is supposed to be extremely breath-taking. I thank her and tell her maybe next year, that I am leaving Prague tomorrow and that there is just not enough time.

I meet the Dutch Ambassador, Jan Lucas van Hoorn, who will be our host tonight. He and I speak briefly of Amsterdam. Tell him that I once had lunch with Prince Bernhard thanks to my friendship with Will Sandberg, the Director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I give him a leaflet about the Sunday night dinners in Paris and we speak briefly about Paris. He tells me that he might like to attend in July. Also chat briefly with the Swedish Ambassador, Catherine von Heidenstam. What a lovely lady she is!

Jindra Dvorakova and I share a taxi into Prague. We also offer Ivana a ride, but she says she will take a metro. She is also off to the countryside, so will not see her again this trip. Life certainly flies by quickly. Give Jindra a copy of Workers in our ride to the Hotel Josef.

Inside check e-mail and print out several copies of Monday’s blog. Edgar Doctorow enters the Media Center to check his e-mail. Give him a copy of Monday’s blog.

Upstairs in my room. Meet Olga, the attractive young woman who is cleaning it every morning. We exchange smiles and I thank her. Lie on the bed and watch Roland-Garros for a few minutes.

Go downstairs to the lobby and sit with Helen Doctorow. She has just ordered an ice cream and I tell the young waiter that I would like one as well. Helen tells me that Edgar’s sister-in-law is ill and that they might have to cut short their travels in Europe and fly to America. Steven Gove arrives and I introduce him to Michael March and to others. His Prague Fringe Theatre Festival has just ended and he reports it has been a big success. Helen excuses herself to get ready for the next event. And treats me to our ice cream. Thanks, Helen. The next one is my treat in Paris!

There is an event in the Municipal Library at 17.00, a Guardian conversation entitled “The Lost Art of Czech Dada” with Tom Sandqvist, Adrian Notz, Ludvik, and Jindrich Toman. And at the same time in the new American Center, there is a talk, “The Pain of Others” – attributed to Susan Sontag – with Gary Snyder, E.L Doctorow, and Aleksandar Hemon. I would like to attend both sessions. In the end I pile into the large van with Michael March, Teri and Sasha Hemon, Helen and Edgar Doctorow, Steven Gore, and Markéta Kolarova, from the Office of Public Affairs in the American Embassy. We drive through crowded streets to the other side of the river. Steven cannot stay for the reading because he is cooking dinner for his mother and a few friends tonight.

Once again it is a stimulating conversation that is animated by a fellow called Richard Olehla.

Afterwards I walk across the Charles Bridge. It has suddenly become very warm. Make my way slowly to the Hotel Josef. Go to the Media Center and write most of Tuesday blog. Then ask the hotel staff to get a car for me to get to the Theatre Minor. Arrive at an interval. I have missed Elena Stefoi and Aleksandar Hemon’s readings. Damn. But the last literary event of the Festival is Edgar Doctorow’s reading from his new book, The March. And then Michael March interviews Edgar. It is a great finale. A superb reading. And a zen-ish/dada-ish interview…

Talk with lots of people including Martin Belk. Martin has journeyed to Prague from Edinburgh. He shot an interview with John Calder and myself at the last Edinburgh Festival. And this coming August, he wishes to do something again. I have promised to participate.

Teri, Sasha, and I sit in the back on a taxi. In the front seat is a woman whose name I have forgotten. Silly me. She is a Czech writer and also writes song lyrics. We speed to the Dutch Ambassador’s residence. It is also a delight finale. We all three like the house. It has a warm feeling about it. I have the feeling that I have been in it before, Jan Lucas van Hoorn and his wife, Catherine, welcome us.

I am one of the first to have a plate full of food. I am ordered to start by the Ambassador’s wife. I learn that she is from France, and she met her future husband, I seem to remember, in Holland. Her Dutch is delightful to the ears. He studied some years at N.Y.U. in New York. I tell Catherine that there is a woman here from France, Paul Kahn’s wife, Dominique. Soon the two of them are chatting away in French.

I introduce myself to two attractive young women. One of them, Zuzana Skalicka, is the Assistant Manager for Press and Cultural Affairs. The other one, Jitka Taberyova, is studying literature at Brno University. Zuzana and Jitka have been friends since early childhood. They are a bit sad because they wanted to talk with Arnon Grunberg and Edgar Doctorow and were too shy to approach them. Now it is too late. Both have departed.

The Czech surreal poet, Pavel Reznicek, gives me one of his poems. It is called Well and the first two lines are “No I will not work/I don’t feel like work…” I must get him a copy of my anti-work manifesto, Workers of the World, Unite and Stop Working!

Time to thank the hosts and head back into Prague. Hannah calls a taxi for Teri, Sasha and yours truly. Soon we are speeding toward the Hotel Josef. And it is soon all over. Only another night’s sleep, another breakfast feast, and farewells to everyone tomorrow morning.


Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes for the Prague Writers' Festival J Haynes blog , 6 June 2007
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris


Newsletter No. 669

Live from Hotel Josef, Thursday
Prague Writers' Festival, J Haynes' blog, 7 June 2007


Well it has been one hell of a week. That is to say, five days of pure joy from morning to night. And today we all depart wonderful Prague and wonderful Hotel Josef to the four corners of the world. I have loved every minute. What can be better than to wake up in a great bed, go down for a fabulous breakfast with stimulating company? Each day has unfolded with so many provocative encounters.

Thank you, Michael and Vlasta. Thank you, Guardian and Hotel Josef. Thank you, Czech Airlines and all the other sponsors. Thank you, Hannah and Mollye. And thank you, PJ, for doing such a great job with my blogs. I have met so many delightful individuals. It is hard to know where to start. And the many embassies who hosted receptions and buffet dinners starting with Ms Catherine von Heidenstam , the Swedish Ambassador and ending with Mr. Jan Lucas van Hoorn, the Dutch Ambassador, and his delightful wife, Catherine. And in between, we had a reception that the Romanian Embassy hosted, a buffet lunch hosted by the Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Arie Arazi and his wife, Ruth. The American Ambassador, Mr. Graber, hosted a buffet lunch and there were late night parties that the Swiss Ambassador sponsored. Food and drink flowed.

This morning I have my usual breakfast feast, read today’s Guardian, check e-mail, go up to my room for the last time and quickly pack my small bag, say goodbye to Room 707, and go downstairs to the lobby to talk with various people. See Michael March and tell him how much I enjoyed the Festival. He gives me a DADA Prague Writers’ Festival T-shirt and tells me to wear it at a Sunday dinner. I promise to do so. He also says that I should plan to come to Prague again next year and write another daily blog. I tell him I will do it with pleasure if I can have room 707 in the Hotel Josef and if PJ will arrange it to be put on the web site. Michael suggests that my terms are over the top, but that he will see if it can be arranged. Milena smiles and says that she thinks she can arrange room 707 for me again.

Elena Stefoi is ready to depart for the airport and her flight to Canada. She will also take James Meek and Arnon Grunberg to the airport in an embassy car. James flies to London and Arnon to New York City. I ask James if I will see him in Edinburgh in August and he says he does not think he will attend the festival this year.

A taxi is ordered for Sasha, Teri and myself. (Peter Stephan Jungk left Prague yesterday for Paris.) More embraces with Melina, more thank-yous and we are off in the bright morning sunshine. Check-in and passport control goes smoothly. Soon we are boarding the Czech Airlines plane and on our way. In what seems like minutes later, we land at Charles de Gaulle airport, clear passport control, collect our bags and manage to get an express RER train into Paris. Teri and Sasha exit at St. Michel and express a wish to dine here this Sunday. I get out at Denfert Rochereau and walk the short distance to 83 rue de la Tombe Issoire. There is a fellow from Warsaw sitting on my steps. His name is Adam Balcerek and he is a photographer. He has a letter for me from friends and a magazine that has a profile of me and the Sunday dinners. We talk a bit and he says that he would like to attend the Sunday dinner this coming Sunday. No problem.

As everyone knows, it is always good to be home. But what a week!

P.S. In an earlier blog, I wrote that Peter Stephan Jungk had suffered two heart attacks. When I arrived back in Paris, I received the following e-mail message from Peter: Hi, Jim, I just read your Prague-blog. I certainly did not suffer any heart attacks whatsoever, thank god! I had endocarditis last year which damaged my mitral valve… it was operated on and repaired in January… and now all is well.

Let me say that I am sorry for my mistake and am pleased that it has been corrected and that Peter is well and fighting fit.

Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes for the Prague Writers' Festival J Haynes blog , 7 June 2007
more on the Prague Writers' Festival Website

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris









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