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The Godfather (The Godfather, #1)
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message 1: by Kristel (last edited Jul 29, 2020 09:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4151 comments Mod
Buddy Read for August 2020, leader. Diane P. The Godfather by Mario Puzo.

Post reviews here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 2: by Diane (last edited Aug 01, 2020 10:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 2047 comments Pre-reading questions.


A. Have you seen any of the Godfather movies? If so, which ones? What was your impression? Since movies generally fall short of the books they portray, do you think the book will be better than the movie? Do you think this will be a case of the movie being better than the book?

B. Have you read any other books by this author?

C. What do you know about organized crime and "crime families"?

D. Why is organized crime such an Italian/Italian-American stereotype? Do you think a lot of that conception is due to this book and or movie, or did the author just capitalize on a stereotype that already existed?


message 3: by Diane (last edited Aug 01, 2020 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 2047 comments About the Book (from the publisher)

"Mario Puzo’s classic saga of an American crime family that became a global phenomenon—nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read.

With its brilliant and brutal portrayal of the Corleone family, The Godfather burned its way into our national consciousness. This unforgettable saga of crime and corruption, passion and loyalty continues to stand the test of time, as the definitive novel of the Mafia underworld.

A #1 New York Times bestseller in 1969, Mario Puzo’s epic was turned into the incomparable film of the same name, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is the original classic that has been often imitated, but never matched. A tale of family and society, law and order, obedience and rebellion, it reveals the dark passions of human nature played out against a backdrop of the American dream.


About the Author
The son of Italian immigrants who moved to the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City, Mario Puzo was born on October 15, 1920. After World War II, during which he served as a U.S. Army corporal, he attended City College of New York on the G.I. Bill and worked as a freelance writer. During this period he wrote his first two novels, The Dark Arena and The Fortunate Pilgrim. When his books made little money despite being critically acclaimed, he vowed to write a bestseller. The Godfather was an enormous success. He collaborated with director Francis Ford Coppola on the screenplays for all three Godfather movies and won Academy Awards for both The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. He also collaborated on the scripts for such films as Superman, Superman II, and The Cotton Club. He continued to write phenomenally successful novels, including Fools Die, The Sicilian, The Fourth K, and The Last Don. Mario Puzo died on July 2, 1999. His final novel, Omerta, was published in 2000.

Discussion Questions (adapted from Between the Lines)

Proceed with caution! Possible spoilers ahead!

1. Is this book a rampant glorification of violence, of the end justifying the means? Discuss.

2. “Life is so beautiful”- Do you find it surprising that these should be the last words of someone who has lived the life that Vito Corleone has? Having read the book, can you account for his final statement?

3. Michael Corleone’s life takes several unexpected turns. How does this college-educated war-hero and aspiring Math teacher change from being the virtual family outcast to becoming the chosen heir of the Don? Do you find the transformation convincing? What does Michael hope to achieve when he says, “Tell my father I wish to be his son”? What does he gain? What does he lose?

4. What do you think of the Don’s belief that “every man has one destiny” and that witnessing his father’s actions predetermined Sonny’s? Sonny is a charismatic character capable of both great protective instincts and remorseless violence; the author ascribes near-mystical causes for his violent nature (Book IV, Ch. 19). Would you agree that probably nothing could have altered the path his life takes?

5. There are five main female characters in the novel – Kay, Mama Corleone, Connie, Lucy Mancini, and Apollonia. Though these women are beloved of the Corleone men, how far, if to any extent, do they impact the decisions of the family? Are their roles merely ornamental, or does their characterization depict something about the culture and mindset of the society to which they belong?

6. There are a couple of sidebars to the main plot namely, the world of Hollywood, and the world of Las Vegas. Are these scenes pertinent to the story, or do they merely provide the requisite sex and glamor quotient to what was intended to be a commercial money-maker?

7. Is there a moral order to the literary universe of The Godfather? Does the book represent Good and Evil as absolute values, or impractical ideals in a world that is inherently flawed?

8. “…There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don’t try to justify them. They can’t be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”

“Michael was not yet the man his father was…[he] still was not that confident of his right, still feared being unjust, still worried about that fraction of an uncertainty…”

What do the above statements reveal about the concept of leadership expressed in this book? Is it necessary or acceptable that those who wield enormous power over others should never question their own actions? If self-assurance is key to inspiring confidence in others, to what extent would any evidence of self-doubt undermine their authority?

9. Did you see the climax coming, or did it take you by surprise? Could the same results have been achieved by different means? Can there ever be forgiveness among people like these, or would it only be interpreted as weakness?

10. How faithful have the Godfather movies been to the vision of Puzo? How do they differ? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the literary and cinematic versions?


Gail (gailifer) | 1421 comments Pre-reading questions:
I have not read any other books by Puzo but I am expecting to enjoy this book and am really looking forward to reading it. However, the movie, The Godfather, is one of the greatest movies of all time (in my opinion) so it is going to be difficult for the book to top the movie. I think that it will simply be different from the movie.
Also, I grew up in an area that had quite a few crime families. There were families where dull green cars with US gov’t plates parked out front all the time, day and night. There were families that had odd family traditions including not letting daughters go to school unescorted. There were fathers of school friends who were too ill to appear in court, according to the newspaper, but were not too ill to go to a son’s basketball game. However, other than dating some of the sons, I saw only the outside not the inside of these families.


message 5: by Diane (last edited Aug 01, 2020 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 2047 comments I finished the book, but I will answer these questions in the mindset I had prior to reading it.

A. Have you seen any of the Godfather movies? If so, which ones? What was your impression? Since movies generally fall short of the books they portray, do you think the book will be better than the movie? Do you think this will be a case of the movie being better than the book?
I have watched Godfather I, II, and III. I and II are two of my all-time favorite movies. I generally find books to be better than the movies, but I have read some in the past where the opposite is true. I want to believe that the book will be even better than the movie, although those are big shoes to fill.

B. Have you read any other books by this author?
No.

C. What do you know about organized crime and "crime families"?
Most of what I know is through books and movies. I never personally knew of any crime families or members of organized crime.

D. Why is organized crime such an Italian/Italian-American stereotype? Do you think a lot of that conception is due to this book and or movie, or did the author just capitalize on a stereotype that already existed?
I put that question in there because I am curious as to the answer. I was not around prior to the book, so I don't really know. The book seemed to indicate that organized crime links back to traditions in the old world.


Diane  | 2047 comments So, after reading this, I watched the movie again with my two kids. I went all out brought out the Italian table settings and made Sicilian food. Perhaps I hyped the movie too much. My kids weren't all that impressed. Teenagers! My oldest is a music/film major, so I thought at least that one would be totally into it. Maybe it's a generational thing.


Hilde (hilded) | 352 comments Haha, well at least you tried, Diane.
It really is an excellent movie, even if the teenagers can’t see it 🤣


Gail (gailifer) | 1421 comments This made me laugh...I guess I may not have thought one of my mother’s favorite movies would be one of mine, so you could be correct.


Diane Zwang | 1259 comments Mod
Pre-reading questions.


A. I have not seen any of the movies but I will after I read the book.

B. This is my first book by the author.

C. I don't know much about the mafia other than stereo-types. I plan on watching the Netflix show Fear City New York vs the Mafia.


Diane Zwang | 1259 comments Mod
Thank you Diane for hosting again. I always enjoy your pre- reading questions.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4151 comments Mod
Not sure I will get time to read this book but
A. Have you seen any of the Godfather movies? If so, which ones? I watched the very first movie but I don't think I've watched any of the others.
What was your impression? I remember thinking the movie was well done considering I read the book first.

Since movies generally fall short of the books they portray, do you think the book will be better than the movie? I think I prefer to read the book but I think the movie was good.

Do you think this will be a case of the movie being better than the book? Maybe, but will wait and see how others way in

B. Have you read any other books by this author? I don't think I read any other books by the author. I read this when I was still in high school.

C. What do you know about organized crime and "crime families"? Only what I read in books and see on TV.

D. Why is organized crime such an Italian/Italian-American stereotype? Well they were one of the first mafia, crime families but now days one is aware that there are similar crime families in many cultures/nations.

Do you think a lot of that conception is due to this book and or movie, or did the author just capitalize on a stereotype that already existed? Not sure, but it seems the question might imply that crime families are not as bad as books and movies or worse?


Patrick Robitaille | 954 comments A. I have seen the first one, probably not the others. For some reason, I was not as impressed by the movie as its reputation promised it to be, maybe I need to watch a second time. Nevertheless, I come with the impression that the movie is better than the book.

B. Nope.

C. I'm not part of it :). Joke apart, I heard a lot of stories about the mafia, first in Montreal (the Cotrone family, with links and/or competition with the New York mafia), then here in Australia, with the Melbourne gangs and the Calabrese mafia families in the Riverina region.

D. Dovetailing from my last answer. The phenomenon appeared initially to be Italian, I would necessarily label as Italian-American; like I said, the mafia was present in other countries. Then, in the last 25 years, the concept morphed and we all heard about the Russian mafia and more recently the Nigerian mafia. These groups are not necessarily family-based and quite often operate outside their native turf. I recall hearing that the Nigerian mafia actually started in Italy and is trying to gain territory to the detriment of the actual Italian mafia.


message 13: by Gail (last edited Aug 24, 2020 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gail (gailifer) | 1421 comments 1. Is this book a rampant glorification of violence, of the end justifying the means? Discuss.

I think there was a glorification of violence in this book in that there is a set of values presented whereby family and taking care of one's own when the rest of the world, including the law, is stacked against you, outweighs any other considerations. You almost agree with the violence as the plot unfolds and I suspect there are many people who get a kick out of vicariously beating up the punks of the world. The need to use violence to attain the right ends is one thing, but the book describes some extreme violence, not just shooting but chopping, that did not have to be described with such detail. The use of violence clarifies the line the book is balanced upon. It presents the characters so that you feel the honor, respect, dignity and even charm they have. The violence makes very clear that these men are not good people, they are not regal warriors doing what needs to be done to live in the world. These are people building empires and they are doing it ruthlessly. The violence against women is particularly insulting. Other than for their beauty, sex, and ability to have children women barely existed in this world.

2. “Life is so beautiful”- Do you find it surprising that these should be the last words of someone who has lived the life that Vito Corleone has? Having read the book, can you account for his final statement?

"Rosebud"
Although Vito Corleone did not live a beautiful life, he did conquer most of his enemies and he did build his own destiny even if he saw it as his fate. To die in the garden holding his son's hand is not a bad way to go for a man that could easily have died as a teenager in Sicily or as a beaten old man in jail.

3. Michael Corleone’s life takes several unexpected turns. How does this college-educated war-hero and aspiring Math teacher change from being the virtual family outcast to becoming the chosen heir of the Don? Do you find the transformation convincing? What does Michael hope to achieve when he says, “Tell my father I wish to be his son”? What does he gain? What does he lose?

Within the context of this somewhat pulpy book, it was convincing because we are introduced to the change by being told about Michael's emotions running cold, and his adrenaline at high alert and liking that feeling. He is set up from the first as someone strong enough to buck even his powerful father, to choose to be an outcast and a soldier rather than what his father would have wanted for him. So it does not come completely as a surprise that he allows his family pride and cool intellect to guide him toward the first big step to being part of the family. He was never painted as a math teacher although it does say that is what he wanted to be....that clearly was a crazy dream. After the death of his passionate love, he realizes that he can not escape his destiny, both that the world will not let him not be part the family and that he no longer feels like he should be removed from the family. Cold vengeance is clearly a big driver of that emotion. The sentence "I wish to be his son", is shorthand that the Don will understand for Micheal coming home to be actively a part of the family's business and not to be an outsider.

4. What do you think of the Don’s belief that “every man has one destiny” and that witnessing his father’s actions predetermined Sonny’s? Sonny is a charismatic character capable of both great protective instincts and remorseless violence; the author ascribes near-mystical causes for his violent nature (Book IV, Ch. 19). Would you agree that probably nothing could have altered the path his life takes?

Nope, I think that the Don made his own destiny. Sonny clearly wanted his father's favor and knew what it took to get what the Don built. He loved the violence for its own sake however, thrived on it in a way that the Don did not. The Don used violence in cold blood, Sonny in hot. His character was no doubt formed by what he saw and felt in the household but he could have worked to curb his natural violent tendencies and he did not.

5. There are five main female characters in the novel – Kay, Mama Corleone, Connie, Lucy Mancini, and Apollonia. Though these women are beloved of the Corleone men, how far, if to any extent, do they impact the decisions of the family? Are their roles merely ornamental, or does their characterization depict something about the culture and mindset of the society to which they belong?

Other than Apollinia, who is somewhat of a stand-in for a goddess, the others represent how tangental the women are in this violent world. Really Connie is the only one with some rounded character. She at least gets mad....Kay is naive, Mama is a charming stereotype. The whole Lucy story seemed to be completely unimportant other than to share with the readers that only Sonny could fulfill her sexual passions and that it takes "men" to make right what mother nature messed up....

6. There are a couple of sidebars to the main plot namely, the world of Hollywood, and the world of Las Vegas. Are these scenes pertinent to the story, or do they merely provide the requisite sex and glamor quotient to what was intended to be a commercial money-maker?

I think the relationship between Johnny Fontane and Nino was actually interesting. Johnny could have made Nino's fortune earlier than he did and when he does step back in to help Nino's career and health, it is too late. I thought that was an interesting side story. However, their relationship with the "older women" and the "bimbos", I did not appreciate. I also didn't completely understand why Jules and Lucy were even in the book....

7. Is there a moral order to the literary universe of The Godfather? Does the book represent Good and Evil as absolute values, or impractical ideals in a world that is inherently flawed?

I think the reason why the book made millions and was so popular was because it is based on the assumption that these men were rising above the law, making their own "good". Only the truly ruthlessly crazily violent Luca Brasi and Al Neri were considered somewhat evil. They were an evil that could be controlled with the right leader. Other than that there were some horrible acts you had to do for the greater good....Even the family was a relative term when it came time to make difficult decisions....ultimately Connie's husband was not family.

8. “…There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don’t try to justify them. They can’t be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”

“Michael was not yet the man his father was…[he] still was not that confident of his right, still feared being unjust, still worried about that fraction of an uncertainty…”

What do the above statements reveal about the concept of leadership expressed in this book? Is it necessary or acceptable that those who wield enormous power over others should never question their own actions? If self-assurance is key to inspiring confidence in others, to what extent would any evidence of self-doubt undermine their authority?

In the real world, I have always felt that a touch of self-doubt makes you human and gives you a touch of vulnerability that will cause others to be empathic. However, in this make believe world, the Don never expressed self doubt and he was the ultimate leader in this world. The Don's self assurance is part of what makes people follow him, they simply trust that he knows what he is doing because he himself trusts that he knows what he is doing.

9. Did you see the climax coming, or did it take you by surprise? Could the same results have been achieved by different means? Can there ever be forgiveness among people like these, or would it only be interpreted as weakness?

Well, having seen the movies, the climax was not a surprise although it is different than in the movies. One of the strengths of the book is that it leads you to believe that there was only ever one way this could all go...instead of feeling disgusted, I felt that that was the proper ending for the book. It kept it in the realm of the modern myth of the gangster.

10. How faithful have the Godfather movies been to the vision of Puzo? How do they differ? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the literary and cinematic versions?

I felt that the movies were superior because one could visually portray a more subtle nuance to the dialogues...you capture the cold anger and hot fear without having to describe it in pulp language. The movies take the Puzo's main characters and builds the same mythos, the poor gangsters who must do what needs to be done to support their families. We fall for Al Pacino rather than feeling horrified by him. However, there is enough horror to keep your interest peaked. He is the ultimate "bad boy". The movie edits out all the side stories, it makes the women more real by virtue of showing you their full beings. The movies are also simply masterfully done. It is cinema at its finest, while Puzo's book is not literature at its finest.


Diane  | 2047 comments Gail wrote: "1. Is this book a rampant glorification of violence, of the end justifying the means? Discuss.

I think there was a glorification of violence in this book in that there is a set of values presented..."


Wonderful responses, Gail!


George P. | 500 comments I read The Godfather three years ago, and found it highly entertaining, and easily convertible to a screenplay, but not a great book by any means. I rated it four stars though. The movies were also entertaining.
I had a girlfriend in the early 70s who was from an Italian family and she totally fell in love with Al Pacino after seeing The Godfather movie.


Diane  | 2047 comments George P. wrote: "I had a girlfriend in the early 70s who was from an Italian family and she totally fell in love with Al Pacino after seeing The Godfather movie...."

lol.


Diane  | 2047 comments 1. Is this book a rampant glorification of violence, of the end justifying the means? Discuss.
It does seem to glorify violence. Violence seems to be a normal part of everyday life for these families and their means of solving problems. It is their way of maintaining their dominance among the other families.

2. “Life is so beautiful”- Do you find it surprising that these should be the last words of someone who has lived the life that Vito Corleone has? Having read the book, can you account for his final statement?
Vito may have been a ruthless criminal, but paradoxically, was also a loving father and husband. I think in his mind, he lived a full, successful life and does not appear to feel much conflict or remorse for his actions. He also seemed to enjoy his retirement, spending time in his garden and with his grandchildren. He was also pleased that Michael decided to become the successor of his empire. Unlike his sons, Vito seemed more successful in separating his work life from his home life.

3. Michael Corleone’s life takes several unexpected turns. How does this college-educated war-hero and aspiring Math teacher change from being the virtual family outcast to becoming the chosen heir of the Don? Do you find the transformation convincing? What does Michael hope to achieve when he says, “Tell my father I wish to be his son”? What does he gain? What does he lose?
I did find the transition convincing. Michael had wished to separate himself from the family and what the represented. After his father is attacked, Michael's desire for vengeance renews his loyalty to the family. He initially justifies this by vowing to one day make the family business "legitimate". His insatiable desire for vengeance takes over, however, and plunges him into a web of violence that changes him into a cold-blooded killer. Michael's statement about wanting to be his father's son was a heads up to his father that he was ready to become his successor and carry on the family's legacy. He gained power, but lost his dreams, aspirations, and people he loved.

4. What do you think of the Don’s belief that “every man has one destiny” and that witnessing his father’s actions predetermined Sonny’s? Sonny is a charismatic character capable of both great protective instincts and remorseless violence; the author ascribes near-mystical causes for his violent nature (Book IV, Ch. 19). Would you agree that probably nothing could have altered the path his life takes?
For this family, that statement is definitely true. Sonny lacks the self-restraint of his father, and is rash, impulsive, and hot-tempered. Growing up in the shadow of the Don, his behavior was his way of establishing his worth and place in the family business. His violent nature, however, did not make him a suitable candidate to take over the Corleone business. Naturally, his recklessness contributed to his death. It was inevitable that he would meet such an end.

5. There are five main female characters in the novel – Kay, Mama Corleone, Connie, Lucy Mancini, and Apollonia. Though these women are beloved of the Corleone men, how far, if to any extent, do they impact the decisions of the family? Are their roles merely ornamental, or does their characterization depict something about the culture and mindset of the society to which they belong?
The women have little influence in the decisions of this family. This is clearly a man's business. With the exception of Kay, the other women accept this way of life. I don't fully understand the point of the side story of Lucy's character. Their mindset no doubt has deep roots in how things have been done traditionally within their culture. Men aren't supposed to discuss the business with women, and women should not question the men about their business. Women can lead more "carefree" lives, while men have to be constantly vigilant and "watch their backs". Men protect the women and the family business. Women take care of the family and occupy a supportive role for the men. Women cannot ascend the hierarchy of the family business or occupy any type of position within the organization.

6. There are a couple of sidebars to the main plot namely, the world of Hollywood, and the world of Las Vegas. Are these scenes pertinent to the story, or do they merely provide the requisite sex and glamor quotient to what was intended to be a commercial money-maker?
I think these detours were pertinent to the story line, for the most part. It also makes a lot of sense for the time frame of the story.

7. Is there a moral order to the literary universe of The Godfather? Does the book represent Good and Evil as absolute values, or impractical ideals in a world that is inherently flawed?
Family comes first, and then loyal relationships with other families. There were characters from other families who were considered to be more "evil", because they committed acts against other families. Violence is justified to protect the family and those loyal to the family.

8. “…There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don’t try to justify them. They can’t be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it.”

“Michael was not yet the man his father was…[he] still was not that confident of his right, still feared being unjust, still worried about that fraction of an uncertainty…”

What do the above statements reveal about the concept of leadership expressed in this book? Is it necessary or acceptable that those who wield enormous power over others should never question their own actions? If self-assurance is key to inspiring confidence in others, to what extent would any evidence of self-doubt undermine their authority?
It's as though you aren't allowed to have a conscience. There is certainly no room for self-doubt. You just do what needs to be done, then move on.

9. Did you see the climax coming, or did it take you by surprise? Could the same results have been achieved by different means? Can there ever be forgiveness among people like these, or would it only be interpreted as weakness?
I wasn't surprised, since I had seen the movie before. I may have been surprised if I hadn't, but probably not, given the transformation occurring within Michael. It is doubtful that there could have been another way for the Corleone's to have remained the dominant family. While it seemed like a great idea to come to a truce amongst the families, that could never happen given their violent natures.

10. How faithful have the Godfather movies been to the vision of Puzo? How do they differ? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the literary and cinematic versions?
Compared to most movies based on books, I think these movies are fairly faithful to the books. I think this is one of those rare instances where the movies are actually superior to the books. The movie left out some of the unnecessary "wordy" elements from the book, and enchanced the story with the use of visuals and music. The ending was particulary more dramatic in the movie version. However, as with most movies, you have to come to your own conclusions about some things, since parts of the explanation and back story are missing.


Patrick Robitaille | 954 comments 1. I’m not sure whether this is glorification of violence. True, there are some gruesome bits and gratuitous acts of violence, but they are displayed in the context of demonstrating and “justifying” the strange ethics and values espoused by Don Corleone and the several Families. We couldn’t have a complete portrait of mafia organisations without outlining the brutal methods they use to enforce their behavioural code.

2. I guess these are the words from a man who obtained what he wanted following his own ethics and “enjoying” his last moments in a “well-deserved” environment.

3. The transition was rather too sudden and perhaps a bit far-fetched at first. However, Michael’s way of life probably prepared him for what was to come, being himself a bit of an outsider (mainly from his family); being in the mafia requires you to be an outsider too, but of the broader society and its rules. Then, two events triggered and enhanced this transformation: first, the shooting of Don Corleone; then, the failed attempt on his own life, losing his wife Apollonia in the process.

4. True to some extent, but your destiny is also influenced by your own choices. This applies as well to Vito (e.g. when he was in his twenties and started the family) as to Sonny (his destiny was mapped by his own temper) and to Michael.

5. The female characters in this novel correspond to a very traditional and cultural family setup, where men are all about business while women are all about looking after the family, with the two aspects being segregated. The women impact decisions in the family in a very passive manner, so long as their protection from the men’s business is ensured.

6. I really questioned the relevance of these sections of the story. They didn’t bring much to support the main plot, apart from providing some tenuous justification for the Family from New York to Las Vegas.

7. In the world of the Godfather, Good and Evil are not universal absolute values, rather the same values viewed through a relative lens, a different reading and interpretation of the world and the society they live in.

9. There was probably only one possible way to achieve the goal that Michael had in mind of becoming “legitimate” and getting out of the business: a systematic cleansing of all the parties which would threaten your own future existence. So, the ending was probably not much of a surprise.

10. I only have vague recollections of the movies, having watched them years ago. The movies appear quite faithful to the book’s story, but I can’t recall the digressions around Johnny Fontane and Lucy Mancini. I would say that the movies are definitely better than the book.


Diane Zwang | 1259 comments Mod
I finally finished the book and I enjoyed it. It was just the right book for me. I am looking forward to watching the movie next. My new job has sucked up all my brain power so I will have to pass on questions but so glad I read the book.


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