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“The boy had an ideal face that I have always imagined from the moment I picked up a brush. I have always desired to paint a face that was extremely gentle and beautiful, endlessly calm and well-mannered, clear and innocent, and passionate. I used to carefully look at people’s faces when I walked down the street or rode on the tram. Nothing else interested me. I only wanted to draw such a face for once in my life.”
내 아들보다 단 세 살밖에 차이가 없는 소년 정규,
아니 그보다도 그의 형과 약혼설이 진행 중에 있는 사이에
그에게 내 자는 얼굴이 행여 더러웠을까 염려되어
거울 앞에 부리나케 달려가던 그 마음을 가지고
내 어이 아들 석주를 보랴 하는 괴로움에 내 눈은 어두워졌어요.
Only three years separated my son and Jeong-gyu. No, that wasn’t all. How could I have worried about my grubby face and rushed to check my face in the mirror while I was about to be engaged to his older brother. My eyes grew dark in shame as I imagined facing my son with that kind of feeling.
# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong
Sun-hee is 32 years old and Jeong-gyu is 19. He could become Sun-hee’s brother-in-law and reminded her of her own son. All these factors make their relationship very risky. But why did the author put the two characters in such a dangerous relationship? It was because writer Baek Shin-ae wanted to show how a social taboo and human desire clash. During the Japanese colonial period, women had to fight against many social taboos as they tried to choose the lives they wanted to lead. Women of the era were tormented by guilt and criticism as they battled old conventions and social prejudice, while some women gave up their dreams and desires by going along with the taboos. This story shows the lives of women through Sun-hee’s dramatic situation. Using vivid emotional descriptions, the writer showed the depth of despair and sorrow that most women probably felt back then.
저 역시 내 삶이 귀한 줄 압니다.
나는 항상 내 손가락 하나를 희생하여 천 사람의 생명을 구할 수 있다 하더라도
선뜻 내어주지 못할 만치 내 몸을 중히 여겼어요.
그렇지만, 그렇지마는 이제는 내 그 귀한 생명을 바쳐서라도
그 소년을 위하려는 거랍니다.
내 마음이 이러한 결심을 하게 되는 날부터 행복했고,
위로받을 수가 있고 해결이 되는 것이었어요.
나는 그 소년을 위하여 생명을 던지리라는 것이었어요.
이제는 흐르는 눈물도 행복된 것 같고
괴로운 환영도 나에게 즐거운 듯합니다.
“I too know that my life is precious. I have always valued my life so much that I wouldn’t have given it up even if sacrificing just one of my fingers would save a thousand lives. But now I’m about to sacrifice my precious life for the sake of that boy. I was happy and relieved from the day I made that decision. I knew that I would throw my life away for that boy. Even the flowing tears became happiness and painful illusions turned into joy.”
Baek Shin-ae (Born in Yeongcheong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Prov., May 19, 1908~Jun. 25, 1939)
Debuted with short story “My Mother” in 1928