The Korean translation of Anne of Green Gables, written by Canadian author Montgomery, has been a steady bestseller enjoyed by Korean female readers since the 1960s. This publication has won over children and adult readers as well as teenagers and has been turned into visual media, showing a significant presence in the literary history which allows us to understand Korean mass culture through the generations. By organizing the periodical characteristics of the publication and consumption of this text, the present paper examines the history of its acceptance and aims to investigate the literary dynamics whereby a single text is deflected as it crosses over national boundaries, is enjoyed in the receptive culture, and reflects a certain outlook on the world.
Furthermore, the paper encompasses the points of contention related to the aspects of gender and nationalism in the narrative of Anne of Green Gables. Through an empirical comparative study of the translated versions, the above-mentioned discourse can be further elaborated. Shin Ji-Sik’s translation was the first Korean translated version and the most widely read, although it was a retranslation (or secondary translation) of the Japanese version. It was therefore influenced by the translator Muraoka Hanako’s worldview and the literary context, as he had worked with an awareness of girls’ fiction in the 1950s. The “tension between the exclusive ethnic communities” had been prominent in the original text, but as the text was introduced to Korea through Japan, the focus was shifted to problems of “individual willpower to overcome a difficult environment”, and the “conservative view of women” was strengthened. For readers in Asia, the background of the text was not the nationalistic symbolism of Canada, but an ideal village community with a lyrical natural landscape. In the literary and publishing market of 1960s Korea, Anne of Green Gables took on a somewhat disparate existence as a “narrative of growth into a member of the community based on a positive view of the world and a conservative view of women”.
As a literary study, this paper emphasizes the idea that the conflict driving the overall narrative of Anne of Green Gables was the tension between “literature” and “productivity”’. The conflicts between the “literary language and performative/deictic conversation”, the “traditional rules of the community and individual freedom”, and the “usefulness of girls and boys in the labor force” are illustrated through series of episodes in order to reproduce three-dimensionally the method by which the social value and usefulness of “literature” and “woman” have been gendered. Imagination in Anne of Green Gables is permitted only to the point where rationality and the productivity of society are not threatened, and imagination expires the moment the character grows into a member of the community. In this way, the imaginative girl is returned to the community. Anne of Green Gables embodies the reality and hopes of a Canadian woman in 1908, and the book still stands at the start of the 21stcentury as a resonance of the reality of late20th-century Korean women, and of the possibility for literary imagination.