Kafka’s Metamorphosis in about 50 Tweets

Umm, guys. Did any of you wake up as a giant insect today? Just wondering, cuz my brother Gregor totally did. [i]

So, I’m looking through the keyhole. He’s got an armored back, a subdivided belly, and about a MILLION little legs just wiggling in the air. #notexaggerating [ii]

His room’s still a regular human bedroom with four walls, fabric samples from his job, and a creepy pic of some lady with fur hat, fur boa, and fur muff. 😕 (My bro’s really into fur.) [iii]

He tried to go back to sleep like 100 times, but he’s a side sleeper, and bugs don’t really have sides. #whoknew [iv]

But crap—Gregor never misses work! The boss is a complete #wackjob who sits ON TOP of his desk and talks down to the employees. Idk, is becoming a bug a legit reason for a sick day? [v]

At first, mom spoke through the door. Dad knocked. And I was pretty much begging. But Gregor would not come out. Also? His words were super chirpy. [vi]

Gregor seemed to think he just caught a really bad cold. #yeahright. Not sure about that one, bro. [vii]  

Next, OMG! His manager stopped by. They don’t cut anyone slack at that job. Wanted to know why Gregor missed the 5am train? ⌚  [viii]

We heard a THUD. Gregor had wiggled his way out of bed. The manager explained that good businessmen can overcome anything—including transforming into invertebrates. [ix]

Our mom played defense: “All Gregor thinks about is work! He never goes out! He basically studies train schedules!” (He. So. #Boring.) [x]

The manager was way pissed. He shouted: It’s unprofessional! Immature! A huge waste of time! Said rumor has it Gregor’s been stealing from work. [xi]

Mom called for a doctor, and dad wanted a locksmith. But Gregor said he’d like to try for the 8am train. He somehow unlocked the door with his mouth and waddled out. [xii]

The manager gasped. Mom collapsed. Dad shook his fists and started sobbing. But Gregor wasn’t fazed. Just said he’ll get dressed and head out. #rally [xiii]

Dad totally lost it and swatted at Gregor with a newspaper. 🗞️When he got stuck in the doorway, dad shoved him—bleeding and all—into his room. [xiv]

Gregor slept until dusk. When he woke up, he limped around the room on his whole left row of legs—with one leg dragging lifelessly behind him. #poorkid [xv]

He used his antennae to find a bowl of milk I’d left for him. He’s always loooved milk, but this time it made him gag. He crawled under the sofa and went to sleep. [xvi]

These days, I feed Gregor twice daily. Mostly rotten vegetables and stale bread. Moldy cheese is his #FAVE! 🧀 He doesn’t much care for the fresh stuff. [xvii]

FYI, it’s pretty tough having a bug in the family. Our cook quit. Dad stopped drinking beer. We’re absolutely broke, since Gregor paid for everything. [xviii]

It’s not like the rest of us can do most jobs. Dad has gained so much weight. Mom has asthma. All I can do is play violin. [xix]

Gregor’s room has gotten so disgusting! I have to open the windows just to breathe. And when he’s watching me, I just want to puke. 🤮Luckily, he usually hides under a sheet. [xx]

When he’s bored, Gregor crawls over the walls and hangs from the ceiling. It leaves sticky trails on everything. #sogross [xxi]

I thought, maybe I can remove the furniture and give him some crawling space? But I couldn’t ask dad to help—he’d have a stroke! And our maid won’t come out of the kitchen. [xxii]

At first, Mom wanted to leave his room alone. She said we shouldn’t give up on Gregor. But she doesn’t get it. 🙄 I’m trying to help him! Bugs don’t need furniture. #duh [xxiii]

So we dragged out the dresser and desk. But Gregor scurried up the wall and blocked us from taking his weird fur-lady pic. Mom got so startled, she screamed and collapsed on the sofa. [xxiv]

“Gregor!” I shouted, realizing this was the first time I’d spoke to him since his metamorphosis. “Don’t scare mom like that!” #chillout [xxv]

I was getting mom’s meds in the kitchen, when Gregor waddled in. And I guess he felt bad? But when I noticed him, I dropped a cup of water and broken glass cut his face. I ran into my room and slammed the door. WTF! [xxvi]

Dad came home wearing a new delivery uniform—it was like 5 sizes too small, lol. I was so mad, I told him what happened and next thing I know he’s (very slowly) chasing Gregor around the house. [xxvii]

Dad grabbed some apples and began pelting Gregor. 🍏 OMG—one lodged in the plates on his back. He winced and dragged himself into his room. [xxviii]

Hey, ya’ll! Sorry for not tweeting for so long. It’s been a total craze month. I don’t even know where to start… [xxix]

Yeah so Gregor still has a rotten apple stuck in his back. In my defense, who has the stomach to pull it out? #shootmenow [xxx]

Dad feels pretty guilty about what happened—and he should. BIG overreaction. Gregor can’t climb walls anymore. He just limps around like a grandpa. [xxxi]

Every night we open his door around dinner time, so he can watch from under the sofa while we eat. #qualitytime [xxxii]

Of course, we don’t talk much at dinner, anyways. Not like we did when Gregor was alive. [xxxiii]

Err, I mean, not a bug. [xxxiv]

Mom got a new job! Selling panties at a lingerie shop (#sexy). And I got a job, too! I’m a salesclerk. Can you believe it? #workingirl [xxxv]

Dad never takes his soooper tight uniform off. He falls asleep in his chair. Just mutters to himself “what a life.” #dads [xxxvi]

To save money, we fired the maid. And sold all the jewelry. (No more parties for us.) We’d move to a cheaper place, but you know… What would we tell the movers about Gregor? #awkward [xxxvii]

After dad falls asleep each night, mom and I shut Gregor’s door and cry. He never sleeps and barely eats anymore. [xxxviii]

Man, I wish Gregor would come back. #please. Everything was so much better before he got all weird. [xxxix]

Did I mention how dirty his room is? Only our part-time housekeeper can stand him now. She nicknamed him “Old Dung Beetle.” [xl]

One morning this spring, it looked like he might attack the housekeeper. She picked up a chair, all ready to smash him, but he backed down. [xli]

We need cash, so we rented out rooms to some guys recently.We turned the dirty room into storage and usually keep the door shut day and night. #nuthin2seehere [xlii]

Tonight, I played violin for the renters. 🎵 Gregor used to say I play beautifully—he was going to pay for me to study music at a university. #ohwell [xliii]

But the renters became distracted while I played. One shouted and pointed. The bug! It crawled into the living room to listen. #stolemythunder [xliv]

The renters briefly seemed curious, but dad flipped out. He pushed them toward their rooms, and next they snapped! Threatened to sue us! Gave their notice! [xlv]

“Enough,” I screamed. “I’ve had it! We gotta get rid of it. That can’t be Gregor. He was never this selfish. He’d have gone away and let us live our lives.” #yolo [xlvi]

The thing stumbled stiffly toward the storage room. I rushed and locked the door behind it. Watched through the keyhole as it moved slowly into the room. [xlvii]

The bug glanced back at the locked door, then crawled toward the window and stopped. Its legs collapsed and head sank. #sulking [xlviii]

The next morning, it was still lying there. The housekeeper poked it with a broom. “It croaked,” she yelled. [xlix]

We all went and looked. “Thank god,” said dad. He poked at the bug’s body, thin like a wafer. The renters came out, demanding breakfast. Dad got so pissed, he kicked them the EFF out on the spot. [l]

Then the housekeeper was acting all cocky about throwing away the corpse?! So dad kicked her the EFF out, too. [li]

The three of us decided to take the day off and go to the country. While hiking, we chatted about our new jobs, moving to a new apartment. You know, #thefuture. [lii]

Mom and dad said I’m turning out pretty HOT. They think I may be ready to start dating? 💕I was like #YAY—I threw up my arms and jumped! [liii]

About The Metamorphosis

Franz Kafka was born into a middle class Jewish family in Prague—then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—on July 3rd, 1883. Trained in law, Kafka spent much of his professional life working in the insurance field, while writing stories and novels during his spare time. One job, for the Worker’s Accident Insurance Institute of the Kingdom of Bohemia, involved investigating the personal injury claims of industrial workers and assigning compensation for injuries like severed fingers and lost limbs. An occupation which, today, some might call Kafkaesque.

Kafka’s work received little attention during his lifetime, when only a few collections and individual stories were published, including the now famous Die Verwandlung aka The Metamorphosis. Before his death from tuberculosis at age 40, Kafka asked his lifelong friend Max Brod to destroy all of his remaining manuscripts, including three unpublished novels, later known as The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. Instead, Brod published the works posthumously and strongly advocated for the legacy of his friend, who eventually became considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

Based upon the events and themes in Kafka’s best-known works, the term Kafkaesque has become an adjective for situations and stories involving surrealism, disorientation, alienation, hopelessness, and bureaucratic convolution. In The Metamorphosis, a workaholic traveling salesman transforms into a bug, becoming increasingly estranged from his unsettled family. In The Trial, a bank teller is arrested and prosecuted by a mysterious attic-based court that refuses to specify his crime. In The Castle, a land surveyor is erroneously summoned to a village governed by a mysterious bureaucracy based in a nearby castle, to which he spends the entire novel trying and failing to gain entry. Like all his novels, Kafka died before finishing The Castle, and it ends mid sentence—which itself seems somewhat Kafkaesque, right?

In fact, the very word Kafkaesque has become so universal in the English language—often spoken by people mostly unfamiliar with Kafka’s work—that some critics have complained it’s frequently misused to just describe any situation that is uncomfortable or unfortunate, sort of like the word irony. An ironic situation that seems fairly—yep, you guessed it—Kafkaesque.

Appendix

[i]“When Gregor Samsa awoke from strange dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

[ii]“He lay on his armored back and when he lifted his head he saw his curved brown belly was divided into stiff segments… His many legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his body, flickered before his eyes.”

[iii]“His room, a regular human bedroom… lay quietly between four familiar walls… a collection of fabric samples was spread out—Samsa was a traveling salesman… the picture… it showed a lady, sitting upright, wearing a fur hat and fur boa; her forearm was covered by a thick fur muff…”

[iv]“… ‘What if I went back to sleep…’ he thought. However, this was totally impractical, as he regularly slept on his right side, a position he could not reach in his present condition…”

[v]“‘Oh God,’ he thought. “What an exhausting career I’ve chosen.’… And it’s a strange way to do business. [The boss] sits on his high desk and talks down to the employees… What if he reported sick? But that would be extremely unpleasant and suspicious since he had not been ill once during his five years of service. The boss would certainly come around with the health insurance doctor…”

[vi]“‘Gregor,’ someone called—it was his mother… Gregor was shocked when he heard his voice answering… As if from deep inside him, there came a persistent and horrible chirping… soon the father was knocking, gently, but with his fist… the sister whispered, ‘Gregor, open the door, I beg you.’… However, Gregor had no intention of opening the door.”

[vii]“He had no doubt that the change in his voice was nothing more than the precursor of a serious cold, a common ailment for traveling salesmen.”

[viii]“…the front doorbell rang… the chief clerk himself. Why must Gregor be condemned to work at a firm where the smallest infraction was a cause for the gravest suspicion… ‘Gregor…the chief clerk has come and wants to know why you did not catch the early train.’”

[ix]“…he swung himself with all his strength out of the bed. There was a loud thud…‘I must say we men of business—fortunately or unfortunately, as you like—must often simply overcome any slight indisposition to tend to business.’”

[x]“‘All that the boy ever thinks about is work. It nearly makes me mad the way he never goes out in the evenings… He sits with us at the table quietly reading the newspaper or studying train timetables.’”

[xi]“ ‘Mr. Samsa,’ the chief clerk now called, raising his voice, ‘what is the matter with you? Here you are, barricading yourself in your room, giving only yes or no for answers, causing your parents serious and unnecessary concern,and neglecting—I mention this just in passing—neglecting your professional duties in an outrageous manner… I am astonished, quite astonished… you suddenly seem to be indulging in a disgraceful exhibition of yourself. The boss did point out a possible reason for your absence early today—concerning the cash payments that recently were entrusted to you… you are incredibly obstinate… you are needlessly wasting my time.’”

[xii]“‘I’ll set off with the eight o’clock train, as well, these few hours of rest have given me strength.’ ‘You must go immediately for the doctor. Gregor is ill. Quick, go for the doctor’… ‘Anna! Anna!’ called the father…clapping his hands, ‘go get a locksmith at once!’… Gregor slowly pushed himself over to the door with the chair, then let go of it and threw himself against the door… He then set himself to turning the key in the lock with his mouth… It was the loud click of the lock snapping back that excited him… He first had to slowly turnaround one of the double doors and do it very carefully if he did not want to flop onto his back before entering the room.”

[xiii]“…he heard the chief clerk exclaim a loud ‘Oh!’—it sounded like a burst of wind… [his mother] took two steps toward Gregor and sank onto the floor into her outspread skirts… His father clenched his fists in anger, as if he wanted to knock Gregor back into his room… covered his eyes with his hands and wept so that his powerful chest heaved… ‘Well,’ said Gregor, perfectly aware that he was the only one who had remained calm. ‘I will get dressed immediately, pack up my samples, and be off.’”

[xiv]“…[the father] snatched with his left hand a large newspaper from the table and, stamping his feet, proceeded to brandish the walking stick and newspaper in order to drive Gregor back into his room… he drove Gregor forward, as if there were no obstacle… and Gregor, without regard, thrust himself into the doorway… soon he was stuck fast and could not move by himself… his father gave him a strong shove from behind and he flew, bleeding freely, far into the room.”

[xv]“It was not until twilight that evening when Gregor awoke from his deep sleep…His whole left side felt like a single long painfully taut scar and he actually had to limp on his two rows of legs. One little leg, moreover, had been severely injured…and it dragged lifelessly behind him.”

[xvi]“… feeling his way awkwardly with his antennas… For there stood a bowl filled with fresh milk in which floated small pieces of white bread… but he did not like the milk at all, which was normally his favorite drink and certainly  the reason his sister had set it out for him.Indeed, it was almost in revulsion that he turned away from the bowl… he scurried under the sofa… he felt immediately comfortable… He stayed there the whole night…”

[xvii]“To find out what he liked, [his sister] brought him a whole selection of food,all spread out on an old newspaper. There were old, half-rotten vegetables,bones covered with hardened white sauce from supper the night before… a cheese that Gregor had declared inedible two days before, a dry bread roll… With tears of gratitude he quickly devoured, one after the other, the cheese, the vegetables, and the sauce; the fresh food on the other hand did not appeal to him… In this way, Gregor was fed twice daily…”

[xviii]“ … on the very first day, the cook…fell to her knees and begged the mother to be discharged immediately… The sister often asked her father whether he would like some beer and kindly offered to fetch it herself… her father answered with a firm, ‘No’… the father explained the family’s financial position and prospects… Gregor later earned enough money to meet the expenses of the entire family and did so. They had simply become used to it…”

[xix]“Now the father was still healthy but an old man who had not worked in five years and could not be expected to do much… he had gained a lot of weight and become very sluggish. And how could Gregor’s elderly mother earn a living, when she suffered from asthma… And should the sister work? She was still a child of seventeen whose life had been so pleasant until now… most of all playing the violin.”

[xx]“Hardly had [his sister] entered the room when she rushed directly to the window… tore the window open hurriedly as if almost suffocating… He realized the sight of him was still repulsive to her and would continue to be repulsive…To spare her from even these glimpses, he dragged a bed sheet to the sofa… and arranged it in such a way as to completely cover himself.”

[xxi]“…to entertain himself, he adopted the habit of crawling crisscross over the walls and ceiling. He especially enjoyed hanging from the ceiling… his sister immediately noticed Gregor’s newfound entertainment—after all he left behind sticky traces of his crawling…”

[xxii]“…[the sister] got the idea in her head of giving Gregor the widest crawling space possible by removing the furniture that hindered him… she did not dare ask for help from her father and the maid would certainly not help her because…she had begged to keep the kitchen door locked at all times…”

[xxiii]“‘…and doesn’t it look, by taking away all the furniture, like we’ve given up all hope of his recovery and are abandoning him completely on his own? I think it would be best to leave the room exactly how it was before, so that when Gregor comes back to us he will find everything unchanged’… Unfortunately, the sister thought differently… she had in fact noticed that Gregor needed a lot of room to crawl, while as far as anyone could see, he never used the furniture…”

[xxiv]“They were emptying out his room… they had already dragged out the bureau… they were now prying free the writing desk from its sunken spot in the floor…[Gregor] noticed on the otherwise empty wall opposite him the picture of the lady covered in furs and quickly crawled up and pressed himself against the glass… the mother… saw  the huge brown mass on the flowered wallpaper… screamed in a loud voice: ‘Oh God! Oh God!’ and,with outstretched arms, collapsed onto the sofa as if giving up and did not move…”

[xxv]“Gregor could see what she intended, she wanted to take the mother to safety and then chase him down from the wall. ‘Gregor!’ yelled his sister, glaring at him and shaking her fist. These were the first words she said directly to him since his metamorphosis.”

[xxvi]“She ran into the other room for some kind of aromatic spirits to revive her mother from her fainting spell. Gregor wanted to help too… he then ran into the other room,as if to advise his sister as he used to, but had to stand helplessly behind her while she searched through the various bottles; when she turned around she was startled by him. One of the bottles fell to the floor and shattered. A splinter of glass cut Gregor’s face… [the sister] ran to her mother with them,and slammed the door shut with her foot…”

[xxvii]“Then the doorbell rang… His father was home. ‘What has happened?’ were his first words… Grete answered in a muffled voice… he stood there erect, dressed in a tight blue uniform with gold buttons, like those worn by bank messengers;his heavy double chin bulged over the high stiff collar of his jacket… he advanced with a grim face toward Gregor… And so [Gregor] ran before his father… In this way they circled the room several times without anything decisive happening, in fact the whole operation did not look like a chase because it proceeded so slowly.”

[xxviii]“… his father was determined to bombard him. He had filled his pockets with fruit from the dish on the sideboard and was now throwing one apple after another…One apple thrown without much force grazed against Gregor’s back and harmlessly slid off. But another following immediately after, landed directly and lodged itself in Gregor’s back; Gregor wanted to drag himself away, as if this shockingly incredible pain would ease by changing his position… his last conscious sight was the door of his room bursting open…”

[xxix]“Gregor’s serious injury, from which he suffered for more than a month—the apple remained embedded in his flesh as a visible reminder because no one dared to remove it…”

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi]“…[the injury] seemed to remind even the father that Gregor, despite his current sad and repulsive shape, was a member of the family who should not be treated as an enemy; on the contrary, in accordance with family duty they were required to suppress their disgust and be patient, nothing but patient. And now,although his injury had caused Gregor to lose some mobility, most likely permanently, and crawling across his room now took long, long minutes like an old invalid…”

[xxxii]“…the door to the living room being left open every evening, which he became used to watching intently for an hour or two beforehand… he could watch the whole family at the lamp-lit table and listen to their conversation…”

[xxxiii] “Of course, they no longer had the lively conversations of earlier times…”

[xxxiv] Ibid.

[xxxv] “… his mother, bent low toward the lamp, sewed fine lingerie for a fashion shop; his sister, who had taken a job as a salesgirl…”

[xxxvi]“Soon after supper, his father fell asleep in his armchair… Out of some kind of stubbornness, his father refused to take off his messenger’s uniform even in the house… usually with the remark: ‘What a life. This is the peace of my old age.’”

[xxxvii]“The household was reduced more and more; now the maid was dismissed… Even various pieces of jewelry belonging to the family, which the mother and sister had been very fond of displaying at functions and celebrations, had to be sold… But their most persistent complaint was the fact that they could not leave this apartment, which was much too large for their present needs, because there was no conceivable way for Gregor to be moved.”

[xxxviii]“…whenever the mother, pointing toward Gregor’s room, said: ‘Now shut that door, Grete,’ and then Gregor was in darkness again while the women sat in the other room and mingled their tears, or they would stare dry-eyed at the table…he could not imagine anything he might want to eat… Gregor was now eating almost nothing.”

[xxxix]“Sometimes [Gregor] had the idea that the next time the door opened he would take control of the family’s affairs just like he had done in the past…”

[xl]“Streaks of dirt covered the walls, here and there were balls of dust and filth… [the housekeeper] never failed to open the door a crack, every morning and evening, to have a brief look at Gregor. At first she would also call him over to her with words she my have considered friendly, like, ‘Come along, now,you old dung beetle!’”

[xli]“One day—early in the morning while a heavy rain, maybe a sign of the coming spring, was pelting the windowpanes—Gregor became so exasperated when the housekeeper again began her sayings that he started toward her as if to attack… the housekeeper merely raised a chair… it was clear that she intended to only shut her mouth when she smashed the chair on Gregor’s back… Gregor turned around again…”

[xlii]“It had become a habit to put anything into this room for which there was no other place in the house, and there were many such things because one of the rooms in the house had been rented to three gentlemen boarders… And since the boarders often took their evening meal at home in the common living room, the living room door often stayed shut in the evenings…”

[xliii]“When the violin began to play they all looked up… And yet Gregor’s sister was playing so beautifully… [Gregor] had always intended to send her to the Conservatory…”

[xliv]“Drawn by the playing, Gregor had ventured forward a little and already his head was in the living room… ‘Herr Samsa!’ cried the middle boarder to Gregor’s father, and without wasting another word pointed his forefinger at Gregor as he slowly crawled forward.”

[xlv]“… they were not at all upset and appeared to find Gregor more entertaining than the violin playing. [The father] rushed to them with outstretched arms and tried to urge them back into their room while at the same time using his body to block their view of Gregor. They now did become a little annoyed… They demanded explanations from Gregor’s father… He just kept urging them and urging them up to the door of the bedroom, when the middle boarder stamped down his foot and thus brought Gregor’s father to halt… ‘I give immediate notice… I shall consider bringing some legal claim against you…’”

[xlvi]“‘My dear parents,” said his sister, slapping the table with her hand as an introduction, ‘we can’t go on like this… I refuse to say my brother’s name in front of this monster, all I can say is: We have to try to get rid of it… You must try to get rid of the idea that this is Gregor… he would have gone away of his own free will… we could carry on living and remember him with respect. Instead,this creature is persecuting us…’”

[xlvii]“He had merely begun to turn around so that he could crawl back to his room… he began to move straight ahead… Not until he had reached the doorway did he turn his head, not all the way around, as he felt his neck stiffening… He was hardly inside his room when the door was hurriedly shut, bolted, and locked. The sudden noise behind Gregor startled him so much that his little legs collapsed beneath him. It was the sister who had been in so much of a rush… Then his head involuntarily sank down to the floor and his last breath came weakly from his nostrils… When the housekeeper arrived early in the morning… She thought he was lying there motionless on purpose, pretending to sulk… ‘it’s dead; it’s just lying there, dead as stone!’

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Ibid.

[l]“…each quickly got out of bed… she pushed Gregor’s corpse across the floor with the broom… ‘Well,’ said Herr Samsa, ‘let’s give thanks to God for that.’… ‘Just look how thin he was.’… Gregor’s body was completely flat and dried up… The three boarders emerged from their room and looked around in astonishment for their breakfast; they had been forgotten about. ‘Where is our breakfast?’ the middle boarder asked irritably… ‘Leave my house at once!’ said Herr Samsa,pointing to the door…”

[li]“The housekeeper stood grinning in the doorway as if she had great news to share with the family but would only do so if she was properly questioned…‘Well,’ answered the housekeeper, interrupting herself with friendly laughter,‘well, you don’t need to worry about how to get rid of that thing next door.It’s been taken care of.’… Herr Samsa, who realized that she wanted to begin describing all the details, cut her short with a decisive gesture of his hand.But since she was prevented from telling her story, she suddenly remembered the great hurry she was in, and, obviously insulted, called out: ‘Bye, everyone,’then whirling around sharply and left the apartment with a terrible slamming of the door. ‘She will be let go tonight,’ said Herr Samsa.”

[lii]“They decided to spend the day by resting and going for a walk… took a tram to the countryside… they discussed their prospects for the future and found that, on closer inspection, they were not at all bad, for all three had jobs…  The greatest immediate improvement in their circumstances would of course occur with a change of residence…”

[liii]“While they were talking and looking at their increasingly vivacious daughter, it occurred almost simultaneously to both Herr and Frau Samsa, that despite the recent sorrows that had paled her cheeks, she had blossomed into a beautiful and voluptuous young lady. Becoming quieter and communicating with unconscious glances, they agreed it would soon be time to find her a good husband. And, as if in confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions, as soon as they reached their destination Grete jumped to her feet and stretched her young body.”

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