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The Nobel Prize in Literature
220px
Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to Johannes Vilhelm Jensen, 1944
Awarded for Outstanding contributions in Literature
Presented by Swedish Academy
Country Sweden
First awarded 1901
Official website nobelprize.org
File:Sully-Prudhomme.jpg

The Nobel Prize in Literature is an international literary prize awarded annually. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Physics, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Background Edit

Alfred Nobel stipulated in his last will and testament that his money be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the "greatest benefit on mankind" in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature.[1][2] Though Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime, the last was written a little over a year before he died, and signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895.[3][4] Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million Swedish kronor (US$186 million in 2008), to establish and endow the five Nobel Prizes.[5] Due to the level of scepticism surrounding the will it was not until April 26, 1897 that the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) approved it.[6][7] The executors of his will were Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, who formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel's fortune and organize the prizes.

The members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that were to award the Peace Prize were appointed shortly after the will was approved. The prize-awarding organisations followed: the Karolinska Institutet on June 7, the Swedish Academy on June 9, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on June 11.[8][9] The Nobel Foundation then reached an agreement on guidelines for how the Nobel Prize should be awarded. In 1900, the Nobel Foundation's newly created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II.[7][10][11] According to Nobel's will, the Royal Swedish Academy were to award the Prize in Literature.[11]

OverviewEdit

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature (Template:Lang-sv) has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" (original Swedish: den som inom litteraturen har producerat det utmärktaste i idealisk riktning).[12][13] Though individual works are sometimes cited as being particularly noteworthy, here "Work" refers to an author's work as a whole. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize in any given year. The academy announces the name of the chosen laureate in early October.[14]

Nobel's choice of emphasis on "idealistic" or "ideal" (English translation) in his criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature has led to recurrent controversy. In the original Swedish, the word idealisk translates as either "idealistic" or "ideal".[13] In the early twentieth century, the Nobel Committee interpreted the intent of the will strictly. For this reason, they did not award certain world-renowned authors of the time such as James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, and Henry James. [15] More recently, the wording has been more liberally interpreted. Thus, the Prize is now awarded both for lasting literary merit and for evidence of consistent idealism on some significant level. In recent years, this means a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale. Hence the award is now arguably more political.[13][16]

"The highlight of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm is when each Nobel Laureate steps forward to receive the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden. ... Under the eyes of a watching world, the Nobel Laureate receives three things: a diploma, a medal, and a document confirming the prize amount". The 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa for "his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat".

ControversyEdit

The Swedish Academy has attracted significant criticism in recent years. Some critics contend that many well-known writers have not been awarded the prize or even been nominated, whereas others contend that some well-known recipients do not deserve it. There have also been controversies involving alleged political interests relating to the nomination process and ultimate selection of some of the recent literary Laureates.[16]


Nomination procedureEdit

File:Nobel2008Literature news conference1.jpg

Each year the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers' organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate. However, it is not permitted to nominate oneself.[17]

Thousands of requests are sent out each year, and about fifty proposals are returned. These proposals must be received by the Academy by 1 February, after which they are examined by the Nobel Committee. By April, the Academy narrows the field to around twenty candidates, and by summer the list is reduced further to some five names. The subsequent months are then spent in reviewing the works of eligible candidates. In October members of the Academy vote and the candidate who receives more than half of the votes is named the Nobel Laureate in Literature. The process is similar to that of other Nobel Prizes.[18]

The prize money of the Nobel Prize has been fluctuating since its inauguration but at present stands at ten million Swedish kronor. (About 1,356,610 USD or 1,067,950 Euros.)[19] The winner also receives a gold medal and a Nobel diploma and is invited to give a lecture during "Nobel Week" in Stockholm; the highlight is the prize-giving ceremony and banquet on December 10.[20]

Prizes Edit

A Literature Nobel Prize laureate earns a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money.[21] The amount of money awarded depends on the income of the Nobel Foundation that year.[22] If a prize is awarded to more than one laureate, the money is either split evenly among them or, for three laureates, it may be divided into a half and two quarters.[23] If a prize is awarded jointly to two or more laureates the money is split among them.[23] It is the richest literary prize in the world by a large margin.

Nobel Prize Medals Edit

The Nobel Prize medals, minted by Myntverket[24] in Sweden and the Mint of Norway since 1902, are registered trademarks of the Nobel Foundation. Each medal features an image of Alfred Nobel in left profile on the obverse (front side of the medal). The Nobel Prize medals for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature have identical obverses, showing the image of Alfred Nobel and the years of his birth and death (1833–1896). Nobel's portrait also appears on the obverse of the Nobel Peace Prize medal and the Medal for the Prize in Economics, but with a slightly different design.[25][26] The image on the reverse of a medal varies according to the institution awarding the prize. The reverse sides of the Nobel Prize medals for Chemistry and Physics share the same design.[27]

Nobel Prize Diplomas Edit

Nobel laureates receive a Diploma directly from the hands of the King of Sweden. Each Diploma is uniquely designed by the prize-awarding institutions for the laureate that receives it.[28] The Diploma contains a picture and text which states the name of the laureate and normally a citation of why they received the prize.[28]

Controversies about Nobel Laureate selectionsEdit

File:Selma Lagerlof nobel prize illustration.png

The Prize in Literature has a history of controversial awards and notorious snubs. Notable literati have pointed out that more indisputably major writers were ignored by the Nobel Committee than were honored by it. These include Leo Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marcel Proust, Ezra Pound, Fernando Pessoa, James Joyce, Harry Mulisch, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, August Strindberg and others, often for political or extra-literary reasons.[30] Conversely, many writers whom contemporary and subsequent criticism regarded as minor, inconsequential or transitionalTemplate:Who have been the recipient of the award.

From 1901 to 1912, the committee was characterized by an interpretation of the "ideal direction" stated in Nobel's will as "a lofty and sound idealism". This caused Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola and Mark Twain to be rejected.[15] Also, many believe Sweden's historic antipathy towards Russia is the reason neither Tolstoy nor Anton Chekhov was awarded the prize. During World War I and its immediate aftermath, the committee adopted a policy of neutrality, favouring writers from non-combatant countries.[15]

The academy considered Czech writer Karel Čapek's "War With the Newts" too offensive to the German government. He also declined to suggest some noncontroversial publication that could be cited as an example of his work, stating "Thank you for the good will, but I have already written my doctoral dissertation".[31] He was thus denied the prize.

According to Swedish Academy archives studied by the newspaper Le Monde on their opening in 2008, French novelist and intellectual André Malraux was seriously considered for the prize in the 1950s. Malraux was competing with Albert Camus, but was rejected several times, especially in 1954 and 1955, "so long as he does not come back to novel". Thus, Camus won the prize in 1957.[32]

Some attribute W. H. Auden's not being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature to errors in his translation of 1961 Peace Prize winner Dag Hammarskjöld's Vägmärken (Markings)[33] and to statements that Auden made during a Scandinavian lecture tour suggesting that Hammarskjöld was, like Auden, homosexual.[34]

In 1964 Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he declined it, stating that "It is not the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to allow himself to be transformed into an institution, even if it takes place in the most honorable form."

Soviet dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 prize winner, did not attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm for fear that the U.S.S.R. would prevent his return afterwards (his works there were circulated in samizdat—clandestine form). After the Swedish government refused to honor Solzhenitsyn with a public award ceremony and lecture at its Moscow embassy, Solzhenitsyn refused the award altogether, commenting that the conditions set by the Swedes (who preferred a private ceremony) were "an insult to the Nobel Prize itself." Solzhenitsyn did not accept the award, and prize money, until 10 December 1974, after he was deported from the Soviet Union.[35]

In 1974 Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, and Saul Bellow were considered but rejected in favor of a joint award for Swedish authors Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson, both Nobel judges themselves, and unknown outside their home country. Bellow would win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976; neither Greene nor Nabokov was awarded the Prize.[36]

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was nominated for the Prize several times but, as Edwin Williamson, Borges's biographer, states, the Academy did not award it to him, most likely because of his support of certain Argentine and Chilean right-wing military dictators, including Pinochet, which, according to Tóibín's review of Williamson's Borges: A Life, had complex social and personal contexts.[37] Borges' failure to win the Nobel Prize for his support of these right-wing dictators contrasts with the Committee honoring writers who openly supported controversial left-wing dictatorships, including Joseph Stalin, in the case of Sartre and Neruda.[38][39]

The award to Italian performance artist Dario Fo in 1997 was initially considered "rather lightweight" by some critics, as he was seen primarily as a performer and had previously been censured by the Roman Catholic Church.[40] Salman Rushdie and Arthur Miller had been strongly favoured to receive the Prize, but the Nobel organisers were later quoted as saying that they would have been "too predictable, too popular."[41]

There was also criticism of the academy's refusal to express support for Salman Rushdie in 1989, after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie to be killed. Two members of the Academy even resigned over its refusal to support Rushdie.[42][43]

The choice of the 2004 winner, Elfriede Jelinek, was protested by a member of the Swedish Academy, Knut Ahnlund, who had not played an active role in the Academy since 1996; Ahnlund resigned, alleging that selecting Jelinek had caused "irreparable damage" to the reputation of the award.[42][43]

The selection of Harold Pinter for the Prize in 2005 was delayed for a couple of days, apparently due to Ahnlund's resignation, and led to renewed speculations about there being a "political element" in the Swedish Academy's awarding of the Prize.[16] Although Pinter was unable to give his controversial Nobel Lecture in person because of ill health, he delivered it from a television studio on video projected on screens to an audience at the Swedish Academy, in Stockholm. His comments have been the source of much commentary and debate. The issue of their "political stance" was also raised in response to the awards of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Orhan Pamuk and Doris Lessing in 2006 and 2007, respectively.[44]

The heavy focus on European authors, and authors from Sweden in particular, has been the subject of mounting criticism, even from major Swedish newspapers.[45] The absolute majority of the laureates have been European, with Sweden itself receiving more prizes than all of Asia. In 2008, Horace Engdahl, then the permanent secretary of the Academy, declared that "Europe still is the center of the literary world" and that "the US is too isolated, too insular. They don't translate enough and don't really participate in the big dialogue of literature."[46] In 2009, Engdahl's replacement, Peter Englund, rejected this sentiment ("In most language areas ... there are authors that really deserve and could get the Nobel Prize and that goes for the United States and the Americas, as well") and acknowledged the Eurocentric nature of the award, saying that, "I think that is a problem. We tend to relate more easily to literature written in Europe and in the European tradition."[47] The 2009 award to Herta Müller, previously little-known outside Germany but many times named favorite for the Nobel Prize, has re-ignited criticism that the award committee is biased and Eurocentric.[48] However, the 2010 prize was awarded to Mario Vargas Llosa, a native of Peru in South America.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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  2. "Guide to Nobel Prize". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/nobelprize/article-9056008. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  3. Ragnar Sohlman: 1983, Page 7
  4. von Euler, U.S. (6 June 1981). "The Nobel Foundation and its Role for Modern Day Science" (PDF). Die Naturwissenschaften (Springer-Verlag). http://resources.metapress.com/pdf-preview.axd?code=xu7j67w616m06488&size=largest. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  5. "The Will of Alfred Nobel", nobelprize.org. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  6. "The Nobel Foundation – History". Nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobelfoundation/history/lemmel/index.html. Retrieved 2010-01-15.  Template:Dead link
  7. 7.0 7.1 Agneta Wallin Levinovitz: 2001, Page 13
  8. "Nobel Prize History —". Infoplease.com. 1999-10-13. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/nobel-prize-history.html. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  9. Encyclopædia Britannica. "Nobel Foundation (Scandinavian organisation) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/416852/Nobel-Foundation. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  10. AFP, "Alfred Nobel's last will and testament", The Local(5 October 2009): accessed 20 January 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Nobel Prize" (2007), in Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed 15 January 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
    After Nobel’s death, the Nobel Foundation was set up to carry out the provisions of his will and to administer his funds. In his will, he had stipulated that four different institutions—three Swedish and one Norwegian—should award the prizes. From Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences confers the prizes for physics, chemistry, and economics, the Karolinska Institute confers the prize for physiology or medicine, and the Swedish Academy confers the prize for literature. The Norwegian Nobel Committee based in Oslo confers the prize for peace. The Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and functional administrator of the funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize-awarding institutions, but it is not concerned with the prize deliberations or decisions, which rest exclusively with the four institutions.
  12. "The Nobel Prize in Literature". nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 John Sutherland (October 13, 2007). "Ink and Spit". Guardian Unlimited Books (The Guardian). http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2189673,00.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  14. "The Nobel Prize in Literature". Swedish Academy. http://www.swedishacademy.org/Templates/Article0.aspx?PageID=f6b62c21-7e52-408c-86f7-7eacd9144a13. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Kjell Espmark (1999-12-03). "The Nobel Prize in Literature". Nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/articles/espmark/index.html. Retrieved 2006-08-14. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Neil Smith (2005-10-13). "'Political element' to Pinter Prize". BBC News (bbc.co.uk). http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/4339096.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-26. "Few people would deny Harold Pinter is a worthy recipient of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature. As a poet, screenwriter and author of more than 30 plays, he has dominated the English literary scene for half a century. However, his outspoken criticism of US foreign policy and opposition to the war in Iraq undoubtedly make him one of the more controversial figures to be awarded this prestigious honour. Indeed, the Nobel academy's decision could be read in some quarters as a selection with an inescapably political element. 'There is the view that the Nobel literature prize often goes to someone whose political stance is found to be sympathetic at a given moment,' said Alan Jenkins, deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement. 'For the last 10 years he has been more angry and vituperative, and that cannot have failed to be noticed.' However, Mr Jenkins insists that, though Pinter's political views may have been a factor, the award is more than justified on artistic criteria alone. 'His dramatic and literary achievement is head and shoulders above any other British writer. He is far and away the most interesting, the best, the most powerful and most original of English playwrights.'" 
  17. "Nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature". nobelprize.org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20071011133225/http://nobelprize.org/nomination/literature/. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  18. "Nomination and Selection of the Nobel Laureates in Literature". nobelprize.org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20071011031630/http://nobelprize.org/nomination/literature/process.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  19. "The Nobel Prize Amount". nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/amount.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  20. "The Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies". nobelprize.org. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. http://web.archive.org/web/20071011015418/http://nobelprize.org/award_ceremonies/. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  21. Tom Rivers (2009-12-10). "2009 Nobel Laureates Receive Their Honors | Europe| English". .voanews.com. http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/europe/2009-Nobel-Laureates-Receive-Their-Honors-78989292.html. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  22. "The Nobel Prize Amounts". Nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/amounts.html. Retrieved 2010-01-15.  Template:Dead link
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Nobel Prize – Prizes" (2007), in Encyclopædia Britannica, accessed 15 January 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
    Each Nobel Prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma bearing a citation, and a sum of money, the amount of which depends on the income of the Nobel Foundation. (A sum of $1,300,000 accompanied each prize in 2005.) A Nobel Prize is either given entirely to one person, divided equally between two persons, or shared by three persons. In the latter case, each of the three persons can receive a one-third share of the prize or two together can receive a one-half share.
  24. "Medalj – ett traditionellt hantverk" (in Swedish). Myntverket. http://www.myntverket.se/products.asp?lang=sv&page=3. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  25. "The Nobel Prize for Peace", "Linus Pauling: Awards, Honors, and Medals", Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History, the Valley Library, Oregon State University. Retrieved 7 December 2007.
  26. "The Nobel Medals". Ceptualinstitute.com. http://www.ceptualinstitute.com/galleria/awards/nobel/nobelmedals.html. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  27. "Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Front and back images of the medal. 1954", "Source: Photo by Eric Arnold. Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Honors and Awards, 1954h2.1", "All Documents and Media: Pictures and Illustrations", Linus Pauling and The Nature of the Chemical Bond: A Documentary History, the Valley Library, Oregon State University. Retrieved 7 December 2007.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "The Nobel Prize Diplomas". Nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/diplomas/. Retrieved 2010-01-15.  Template:Dead link
  29. http://www.svd.se/kulturnoje/understrecket/valdsam-debatt-i-akademien-nar-lagerlof-valdes_3569005.svd - Article (in Swedish): "Violent debate in the Academy when Lagerlöf was elected". 25 September 2009
  30. Marjorie Kehe, "Are US Writers Unworthy of the Nobel Prize?" Christian Science Monitor, Chapter & Verse Blog. Web. The Christian Science Monitor, 2 October 2008. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  31. Peter Swirski. From Lowbrow to Nobrow. McGill Queen's University Press. http://www.mqup.ca. 
  32. Olivier Truc, "Et Camus obtint enfin le prix Nobel". Le Monde, 28 December 2008.
  33. Harold Orlans, "Self-Centered Translating: Why W. H. Auden Misinterpreted 'Markings' When Translating It from Swedish to English", Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning (published by Heldref Publications for The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), 1 May 2000, Highbeam Encyclopedia, encyclopedia.com, accessed 26 April 2008: "Swedish dismay at the mangled translation may have cost Auden the Nobel prize in literature."
  34. Alex Hunnicutt, "Dag Hammarskjöld", glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture (Heldref Publications, 2004), glbtq.com, accessed 11 August 2006: "Unless some hidden manuscript surfaces or an aging lover suddenly feels moved to revelation, it seems unlikely the world will ever know for sure the details of Hammarskjöld's sexual experience. W. H. Auden, who translated Markings, was convinced of his [Hammarsköld's] homosexuality. Saying so publicly during a lecture tour of Scandinavia may have cost Auden the Nobel Prize for Literature that he was widely expected to receive in the 1960s."
  35. Stig Fredrikson, "How I Helped Alexandr Solzhenitsyn Smuggle His Nobel Lecture from the USSR", nobelprize.org, 22 February 2006. Retrieved 12 October 2006.
  36. Alex Duval Smith (2005-10-14). "A Nobel Calling: 100 Years of Controversy". The Independent (news.independent.co.uk). http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article319509.ece. Retrieved 2008-04-26. "Not many women, a weakness for Anglo-Saxon literature and an ostrich-like ability to resist popular or political pressure. Alex Duval Smith reports from Stockholm on the strange and secret world of the Swedish Academy." 
  37. Colm Tóibín (2006-05-11). "Don't Abandon Me". The London Review of Books. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n09/toib01_.html. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  38. New studies agree that Beauvoir is eclipsing Sartre as a philosopher and writer The Independent May 25, 2008. Retrieved on January 4, 2009.
  39. Textos escondidos de Pablo Neruda Libros April 14, 2005. Retrieved on January 4, 2009.
  40. Julie Carroll, " 'Pope and Witch' Draws Catholic Protests", The Catholic Spirit, 27 February 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2007.
  41. "Nobel Stuns Italy's Left-wing Jester", The Times, 10 October 1997, rpt. in Archives of a list at hartford-hwp.com. Retrieved 17 October 2007.
  42. 42.0 42.1 "Nobel Judge Steps Down in Protest". BBC News Online (BBC). 2005-10-11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/4329962.stm. Retrieved 2007-10-13. 
  43. 43.0 43.1 Associated Press, "Who Deserves Nobel Prize? Judges Don't Agree", MSNBC, 11 October 2005. Retrieved 13 October 2007.
  44. Dan Kellum, "Lessing's Legacy of Political Literature: The Nation: Skeptics Call It A Nonliterary Nobel Win, But Academy Saw Her Visionary Power", CBS News, rpt. from The Nation (column), 14 October 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2007.
  45. Dagens Nyheter Akademien väljer helst en europé (The Academy prefers to pick a European)
  46. Kirsch, Adam (2008-10-03). "The Nobel Committee has no clue about American literature". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2201447/. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  47. "Judge: Nobel literature prizes 'too Eurocentric' | World news | guardian.co.uk". Guardian. 2009-10-06. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/8742797. Retrieved 2010-02-05. 
  48. Jordan, Mary. Author's Nobel Stirs Shock-and-'Bah'. Washington Post. Friday, October 9, 2009.

External linksEdit

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