1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

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1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:44 pm

Volume 1: Fantine, book 1: An Upright Man

Chapters:
1. Monsieur Myriel
2. Monsieur Myriel devient monseigneur Bienvenu/Myriel becomes Bienvenu
3. À bon évêque dur évêché/A hard office for a good bishop
4. Les œuvres semblables aux paroles/Works matching words
5. Que monseigneur Bienvenu faisait durer trop longtemps ses soutanes/How Bienvenu made his cassocks too long
6. Par qui il faisait garder sa maison/The guardian of his house
7. Cravatte
8. Philosophie après boire/A philosopher in his cups
9. Le frère raconté par la sœur/A sister's account of her brother
10. L'évêque en présence d'une lumière inconnue/The bishop confronted by a strange light
11. Une restriction/A reservation
12. Solitude de monseigneur Bienvenu/The loneliness of monseigneur Bienvenu
13. Ce qu'il croyait/What he believed
14. Ce qu'il pensait/What he thought

Hi everyone, welcome! We're going to be reading this book until the 14th, and then the post for the next book will be put up. You can however of course always come back here and post if you want to discuss something.

I just wanted to also add, don't be afraid to post here. The more the merrier. Don't worry if you think what you have to say is too stupid, too silly, or even too pretentious. Trust me, I thought "Patria" was actually some ladyfriend Enjolras had on the side the first time I read the book. I thought, "aw, that's sweet, Enjolras has a girlfriend he can't talk about to anyone." It doesn't matter what character you love and which one you hate. What matters is that we have fun, of course.

That said, I don't expect a lot of commentary on this book, cause our main character hasn't been introduced yet.

The French text can be found here if anyone would like to look at it.

So, yes, this book is all about the bishop. The first chapter tells us that he got married young. He was from an aristocratic family that was ruined in the French Revolution. He had gone to Italy with his wife. There, she died and he emerged a priest. I wonder if Myriel didn't particularly care for the married state or if he actually never wanted to marry anyone because he had loved her.

Some of my own notes so far:

Mlle Baptistine was tall, pale, thin, and gentle, a perfect expression of all that is implied by the world 'respectable': for it seems that a woman must become a mother before she can be termed 'venerable'.

Seriousness or sarcasm on Hugo's part?

A footnote from my edition (Penguin, Norman Denny translator): "M. Bigot de Prémeneu, a real person, was one of the compilers of the "Code Civil" and the Ministre de Culte (religious affairs) under the Empire.

(Premenue in the book criticizes the bishop for funds which the bishop, when he gets them, gives to charity.)

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Hannah » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:20 pm

Ulkis wrote:Mlle Baptistine was tall, pale, thin, and gentle, a perfect expression of all that is implied by the world 'respectable': for it seems that a woman must become a mother before she can be termed 'venerable'.


Seriousness because he has HECKA LADY ISSUES, I fear 8| Especially in relation to motherhood. Eck.

Anyway I am taking my copy on the plane with me so hopefully I can return to this discussion once I am in London! :D

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:29 pm

To make it more interesting, I replaced my modern Polish edition with a one from 1899 - I am going to check what did the tsarist censorship cut off :twisted:

Speaking about the first chapter - can someone be able to help me in answering the question why the hell at least three different Polish translators (haven't check the oldest ones though) call the bishop "Benevenuto" - does this form appear in other language versions as well, perhaps inspiring "our" guys? It doesn't make much sense and it's been bothering me for quite a long time. No similar Polish word - why out of sudden Italian instead of French then? :?
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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Frédérique » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:21 pm

Elwen, your 'Benvenuto' has been amusing and confusing me ever since you mentioned it on the Non-English translations thread :D not only does it seem odd to translate a name but not translate it into the language into which the rest of the text is being translated, the name is so commonly associated with Cellini (outside of Italy, I mean) that its use as a 'nickname'/the name chosen as most appropriate out of his given names gives you rather a wrong idea of the character. Wasn't the oldest Polish translation the first translated "Les Misérables" ever? If Benvenuto appeared in that one already, you'd know for sure that he's a Polish phenomenon.

Other thoughts - might the line that goes (paraphrase) 'what is said of men matters as much as what they do' be a sort of play on 'what matters is not what you say, it's what you do' or is it just ... well, an observation on the same approximate topic?
Speaking of what people say, it's notable that some of the information we get about M. Myriel in the very first chapter is not the straight word-of-God character information Hugo is so fond of but just that: what people said about the Bishop, 'vrai ou faux'. And much else is speculation, because 'no-one could have said'. I may be misremembering this (already a thing to pay attention to during the re-read!), but I don't think there are many instances later in the book where the narrator makes such a point of not knowing things about a character (as opposed to either knowing everything or just not saying whether or not he knows more than he says).

Also, St. Magloire was a fifth/sixth century bishop who died on Jersey. Coincidence?

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:56 pm

Seriousness because he has HECKA LADY ISSUES, I fear 8| Especially in relation to motherhood. Eck.


I checked the French because I thought maybe by mother, he meant a nun and/or mother, but no, it was just mother.

Re: Benevenuto, how odd. Sometimes translators have no better reason than, "because I think it's better this way," frustratingly.

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Wed Sep 01, 2010 8:57 pm

Frédérique wrote:Wasn't the oldest Polish translation the first translated "Les Misérables" ever? If Benvenuto appeared in that one already, you'd know for sure that he's a Polish phenomenon


It still amuses me that Polish edition came out a month before the French one :twisted: Really, they bought the manuscript from the editor and started to put it in episodes in a newspaper, with two translators occupied. Translation can be done pretty fast, especially when done by fans - think of all the illegal translations of "Harry Potter" - so I can believe it, though of course quality is another thing and said newspaper is hard to find (hmm, perhaps it's been digitalized...). And I want to find the origins of "Benevenuto", if not anything else :P
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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby method in madness » Wed Sep 01, 2010 9:58 pm

Maybe it's growing up in the suburbs, but I broke into a grin when I found this snide gem: "... [A] small town, where there are many tongues to talk, but few heads to think."
Other notes:
"[Mlle. Baptiste] had never been pretty; her whole life, which had been but a succession of pious works, had produced upon her a kind of transparent whiteness, and in growing old she had acquired what may be called the beauty of goodness.”
I keep thinking that he makes this comment about the "beauty of goodness" at some point later on...perhaps Fantine, where she is physically beautiful, but more importantly, she is good, and even though her beauty doesn't last, the good soul does? Or maybe "beauty of goodness" is just a good turn of phrase. :D
I may be misremembering this (already a thing to pay attention to during the re-read!), but I don't think there are many instances later in the book where the narrator makes such a point of not knowing things about a character (as opposed to either knowing everything or just not saying whether or not he knows more than he says).

If it helps, I don't recall anything either. He purposely leaves some of the Patron-Minette's history a bit murky, obstensibly because of their shadowy existence, but if I recall, the overall impression is that the omissions are for effect, not for lack of information.
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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Marianne » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:20 pm

Frédérique wrote:Other thoughts - might the line that goes (paraphrase) 'what is said of men matters as much as what they do' be a sort of play on 'what matters is not what you say, it's what you do' or is it just ... well, an observation on the same approximate topic?


I don't know, but it seems remarkably à propos not just for Myriel, but for Jean Valjean as well. Everything that happens to him seems to come about because of what others think of him (the law, the citizens of Montreuil-sur-Mer, the law going after an absurdly exaggerated idea of Valjean the Dangerous Criminal in the Champmathieu affair, Thénardier in the Gorbeau robbery, and especially Marius at the end) rather than what he's actually done.

Notes:

Hugo left instructions that all the struck-out town names (D----, M---- sur M----, etc) be replaced with their real names in all editions after his death. In the draft version, the Bishop's name, Monseigneur de M----, was struck out too.

Digne is Digne-les-Bains, a town in southwestern France where the Alps meet Provence. Wiki (en), Wiki (fr). It's in the foothills of the Alps... and some of those "foothills" still have snow on their summits at the end of April. The lavender is apparently spectacular in August. It's part of the route Napoleon took north during the Hundred Days.

Brignoles is a small town in the same region, although much further south. Wiki (en), Wiki (fr).

The bishop is based directly on Charles François Melchior Bienvenu de Miollis, bishop of Digne from 1805 to 1838. Not all his relatives were happy about the shout-out--his nephew wrote an angry letter to a conservative rag protesting the depiction of his uncle as unorthodox (notably due to the incident with G--- the conventionnel and to the fictitious wild youth that Hugo gave Myriel). It seems ridiculous to us, since we tend to view the beginning of the book as an interminable fifty-page digression about how saintly Mgr Bienvenu was, but it was originally meant as one in the eye for the Catholic church and a declaration of Hugo's own principles of where the spirit of Christianity should lie. Hugo's research on Mgr de Miollis was exhaustive and predates the earliest versions of Les Mis by fifteen years or so--he first started his research around 1828 or 1829--and some of the parallel details are ridiculously exact.

According to my Pléiade edition, this section of the book started out all jumbled-up in the rough drafts, with various parts missing or in a different order. I can give more details if anyone's interested.

This section dates back almost to the earliest conception of the novel: Hugo originally planned to write a huge social novel (as was all the rage in the 1840s after Eugene Sue's Mysteries of Paris), and the first part was to be called "The Bishop's Manuscript," a complete treatise on dogma and ecclesiastical discipline supposedly found in a bishop's papers. Hugo's publishers were rather afraid that this would eat into the novelistic part of the book that they had been promised, and at some point he agreed to only publish it separately or as an appendix. Slightly later, around 1848 when the first draft was written, Hugo divided the book into four parts: Story of a Saint (Myriel), Story of a Man (Jean Valjean), Story of a Woman (Fantine), Story of a Doll (Cosette).

Short passages from the rough drafts that were later omitted:

The very beginning:
It is impossible for us not to study in some detail, at the beginning of this book, a gently imposing figure, erased today after a modest influence (note: Hugo uses 'rayonnement' which can also mean 'radiance'), who has more-or-less disappeared into the shadow that is beginning to cover the first years of this century. We have said imposing; let us add unique. To find anything similar to this figure, we would have to return to the times--nearly mythical for us--of bishops with wooden crosses.

On small-town gossip:
Men often speak at random. Whatever is above is always attacked by whatever is below. A bishop is easily denigrated for two reasons: first because he is a bishop, second because he is a priest. There are people who hate the cassock through the spirit of irreligion that is called philosophy, and others who hate the mitre through the spirit of envy that is called equality. Ask them the reason for this hatred and they will not tell you. Perhaps because they do not know it themselves. It is an instinct, an ill-considered sentiment, puerile on the surface and at the bottom of which, as for many sentiments of this sort, there is a reason for being and a hidden motive. Even though the expression may seem bizarre, it would perhaps be very true to say that they hate the cassock because it is black and the mitre because it is white. Gravity and splendor are equally bothersome to mediocre brains, that is to say the masses.

Mlle Baptistine was originally Mlle Sylvanie de M----, and was both the bishop's sister and his servant. Later Hugo added Mme Magloire, who was originally named Marthe.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby brittlesmile » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:26 pm

Ulkis wrote:Mlle Baptistine was tall, pale, thin, and gentle, a perfect expression of all that is implied by the world 'respectable': for it seems that a woman must become a mother before she can be termed 'venerable'.

Seriousness or sarcasm on Hugo's part?


I always took it as seriousness, considering that all the 'venerable' women in Hugo's works are, in fact, mothers. But it is interesting to read it as sarcastic self-awareness of the fact that he's contributing to this idea that might not, necessarily be true.

I was wondering about in the French version when he writes du bruit, des mots, des paroles; moins que des paroles, des palabres what the significance is of using the Spanish 'palabres'. Is it just as a bit of regionalism or is there greater meaning to it?
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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Marianne » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:33 pm

Regionalism, I think.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Wed Sep 01, 2010 10:56 pm

Palabres (what would you even call that spelling? Frangnol? Espanais?) - which MAF leaves as "palabres" and JR writes as..."pap."

Curious how Baptistine's angelic introduction will clash IIRC with her treatment of JVJ. A hint that it's meant to be at least somewhat sarcastic?

I never knew about when/why the dashes were replaced with the full names. Thanks for that, Marianne!

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:04 pm

Curious how Baptistine's angelic introduction will clash IIRC with her treatment of JVJ. A hint that it's meant to be at least somewhat sarcastic?


It's interesting to note that the bishop didn't necessarily forgive everyone all the time (in the instance where he asks where the Prosecutor should be tried, the Prosecutor who tricked the woman into betraying the lover who forged money).

but it was originally meant as one in the eye for the Catholic church and a declaration of Hugo's own principles of where the spirit of Christianity should lie.


I was surprised to read that the Bishop had been married. Do you know if the real life bishop was also married?

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Marianne » Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:28 pm

Ulkis wrote:It's interesting to note that the bishop didn't necessarily forgive everyone all the time (in the instance where he asks where the Prosecutor should be tried, the Prosecutor who tricked the woman into betraying the lover who forged money).


Well. Forgiveness doesn't have to mean denial of the crime, or a pass on the expiation. (Note also that the bishop doesn't try to deny that the forgery was wrong or say that the forger should be set free, although we can safely assume that he probably disapproves of hitting someone with the full force of the law when they forged money out of desperation.) And I think the idea here is that the downtrodden deserve sympathy and leniency, those in power deserve scrutiny, and those who abuse their power deserve more punishment than they normally get--a theme that Hugo will develop again and again.

Ulkis wrote:I was surprised to read that the Bishop had been married. Do you know if the real life bishop was also married?


No, he wasn't, and that was one of the details his nephew was angry about.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Sep 02, 2010 4:04 am

Bringing a few notes - editor of this edition is Guy and Annette Rosa, I'm using the 1995 printing of the 1985 edition.

Chapitre I - M. Myriel
Note 1 (chapter title): Très vite les commentateurs, et d'abord la famille du <<modèle>> ont reconnu Charles-François-Bienvenu de Miollis (1753-1843), évêque de Digne de 1806 à 1838, dans le personnage de Hugo. De fait celui-ci s'était, dès 1834, documenté avec précision sur la famille de ce prélat (en particulier sur son frère, le général Sextus de Miollis) dont la vie et la carrière offrent beaucoup d'analogies avec celles de Mgr Bienvenu. Sans doute l'attention de Hugo avait-elle été attirée sur lui par Montalembert qui, reçu à Digne en octobre 1831 par Mgr de Miollis, était revenu enthousiaste.
Very quickly the commentators, and above all the family of the "model" recognised Charles-François-Bienvenu de Miollis, bishop of Digne, in Hugo's character. In fact, the one was, from 1834, gathering with precision information on the family of this prelate (in particular on his brother, the general Sextus de Miollis) of which the life and career offer many analogies with those of Mgr Bienvenu. Without doubt Hugo's attention was attracted to him by Montalembert who, received in Digne in October 1831 by Mgr de Miollis, returned a fan.

Chapitre II - M. Myriel devient Monseigneur Bienvenu
Note 2 (With these 1500 francs, these two old women and this old man lived.): Sur un revenu de quinze mille livres, l'évêque ne conserve donc que le dixième: dîme inversée; voir I, 1, 6: <<Je paie ma dîme, disait-il>>.
On an income of 1500 livres, the bishop thus keeps only one-tenth; tithe inverted; see Part I, book 1, chapter 6: "I pay my tithe, he said".
Note 3 (last sentence of chapter): Hugo ne dit pas à quoi: manière d'inviter le lecteur à s'interroger. L'Église, gênée par cet évêque, évangélique et fort peu épiscopal, attaqua de diverse manières le personnage. Hugo n'avait guère de peine à répondre. Voir, en particulier, <<Muse, un nommé Ségur ...>>, Les Quatres Vents de l'esprit, <<Le Livre satirique>>, XXIX (au volume Poésie III) et la lettre ouverte à Mgr de Ségur de décembre 1872 (Actes et Paroles III, Après l'exil, au volume Politique).
Hugo does not say to what: method of inviting the reader to ask himself. The Church, annoyed/disturbed by this evangelical and hardly episcopal bishop, attacked the character in diverse ways. Hugo hardly had trouble responding. See, in particular, "Muse, one named Ségur . . .", The Four Winds of the Spirit, "The Satiric Book", XXIX (in the volume Poetry III) and his open letter to Mgr de Ségur of December 1872 (Acts and Words III, After Exile, in the volume Political).

Chapitre IV - Les Oeuvres semblables aux paroles
Note 4 (some admire, like de Maistre): J. de Maistre: Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg (1821); César de Beccaria (1738-1794): Traité des délits et des peines (1754).
Maistre: Evenings in St Petersburg; Beccaria: Treatise on Crimes and Punishments.

Chapitre V - Que Mgr Bienvenu faisait durer trop longtemps ses soutanes
Note 5 (he slept little): Trait autobiographique. Il y en a beaucoup d'autres dans le personnage.
Autobiographical trait. There are many others in this character.
Note 6 (the verse of Genesis): Genèse, I, 2.
Genesis 1:2.
Note 7 (he examined the theological works of Hugo): Cette parenté avec Charles-Louis Hugo (1667-1739), évêque in partibus de Ptolémaïs, historien lorrain, semble romanesque. Elle appartient néanmoins à la légende familiale. V. Hugo à A. Caise, le 20 Mars 1867: <<La parenté de l'évêque de Ptolémaïs est une tradition dans ma famille, je n'ai jamais su que ce que mon père m'en a dit. [...] Les Hugo dont je descends sont, je crois, une branche cadette, et peut-être bâtarde, déchue par indigence et misère.>>
This relationship with Charles-Louis Hugo, bishop in partibus of Ptolemais, historian from Lorraine, seems fantastic/ridiculous. It belongs nevertheless to family legend. V. Hugo to A. Caise, 20 March 1867: "The relationship of the bishop of Ptolemais is a tradition in my family, I only ever knew what my father told me about it. . . . The Hugos from which I descend are, I think, a lower/younger branch, possibly a bastard one, fallen through indigence and misery."
Note 8 (the most beautiful of all your names): Outre que l'exactitude des références témoigne de la lecture assidue de ces textes par Hugo (en 1846 notamment), on notera que Dieu partage ici avec les misérables cette forme d'anonymat qui résulte de la multiplicité des noms.
Outside of the exactitude of references testifying to the assiduous reading of these texts by Hugo (notably in 1846), one will note that God shares here with the Misérables this form of anonymity that results from the multiplicity of names.

Chapitre VI - Par qu'il faisait garder sa maison
Note 9 (he arrived once when there were twelve): Ce n'est que lorsque le Christ s'ajoute aux douze apôtres qu'on est treize à table.
It is only when Christ adds himself to the twelve apostles that there are thirteen at the table.
Note 10 (this house had been "le parloir aux bourgeois"): Quelque chose comme la salle du conseil municipal. Siège des libertés bourgeoise, hôpital, logis d'un évêque qui est un juste, l'histoire de cette maison, comme celle de la famille de Mgr Bievenu, résume le côté lumineux de l'histoire des temps modernes. Par antithèse, voir I, 7, 7.
Something like the hall of the municipal council. Seat of bourgeois liberties, hospital, lodging of a bishop who is a just man, the history of this house, like that of Mgr Bienvenu's family, sums up the enlightened side of the history of modern times. By antithesis, see part I, Book 7, chapter 7. (lumineux - luminous, light, brilliant: pick one.)
Note 11 (Latin tag at end of chapter): <<Ceux-là veillent en vain qui gardent la demeure que Dieu ne garde pas.>> Ce psaume 126, traduit par Hugo sur un de ses albums de voyage de 1839, éclaire l'énigme du titre.
"He keeps watch in vain who guards the house God does not watch." This Psalm 126, translated by Hugo in one of his travel albums of 1839, clears up the enigma of the title. (garder - guard, keep, save)

Chapitre VII - Cravatte
Note 12 (one of his lieutenants, Cravatte): Lors de son voyage dans le Midi d'octobre 1839, Hugo passant par les gorges d'Ollioules près de Toulon, avait enregistré ce que la tradition locale disait de Gaspard Bes, bandit exécuté à Aix en 1781. Mais auncun Cravatte n'apparaît dans ses notes.
At the time of his trip in the Midi in October 1839, Hugo, passing by the gorges of Ollioules near Toulon, had recorded what local tradition said of Gaspard Bes, a bandit executed in Aix in 1781. But no Cravatte appears in his notes.
Note 13 (but to save souls ): L'ébauche de ce dialogue, et notamment de cette phrase, a été noté par Hugo sur un album de voyage de 1839.
The outline of this dialogue, and notably of this phrase, was noted by Hugo in a travel album of 1839.

This is the first seven chapters of the book, roughly a third of the notes for the book but a good sprinkling of the sort of thing the notes in this edition contain. Please let me know if you'd like me to keep going, if these are at all helpful.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 1.1 Un Juste/An Upright Man, 1/9/10-14/09/10

Postby Roses for Ophelia » Thu Sep 02, 2010 5:07 am

This is actually more of a general question, but why in 19th century novels did they strike out names so much? I had an old edition of les mis (it was only half the book) that struck out all the names (D--- M---sur M--) and it bothered me so much. Was there a reason this was done?
Rivers belong where they can ramble...


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