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“Anna’s Diary” by Jang Eun-jin

#Books on Demand l 2022-09-13

Books on Demand

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Anna was a bell ringer at a small church in our town. 


This story might make someone recall a character from a Victor Hugo novel, the poor Quasimodo who had to be locked up in the bell tower of Notre Dame because of his ugly looks.


But our Anna, like the image from her name, leans more toward Esmeralda, the story’s Gypsy heroine. A cynical beauty, Anna was a 11-year-old girl who likes to ride her red bicycle around the town like a wanderer. 



안나에게는 일기장이란 게 존재하지 않았다.

한 많은 그 긴 글을 모조리 일기장에 남긴다면

어떤 날은 하루치 일기를 쓰기 위해 일기장 절반을 써야 할지도 몰랐다.

Anna didn’t have a diary. If she poured out all her grief in a diary, she might have to use half the diary just for a day’s entry.


일기장 살 돈은 없는데, 뭔가를 적어야 한다는 강박감은 날로 심해지자

안나가 종이 일기장 대신 선택한 것은 바로 우리 동네였다.

Although she didn’t have the money to buy a diary, her compulsion to write something grew stronger and what she chose instead of a notebook was our town.


우리 동네는 비록 낡고 볼품없지만

안나에게는 세계 지도 만큼 커다란 가능성을 지닌 공간이었다.

그 가능성은 연립주택 벽에, 공원 플라스틱 벤치에,

놀이터 철봉 기둥에, 전신주에, 공공 쓰레기통에,

철이나 유리로 된 문 등등에 담겨 있었다.

Our town was old and shabby but to Anna it was a place with possibilities as rich as a world atlas. The potentials were on the walls of a multiplex apartment, on plastic park benches, on the poles of a chin-up bar at the playground, on the utility poles, at public dumpsters, on steel or glass doors.


울퉁불퉁하지 않고 반반하고 매끄러운 데라면 어디라도 충분했다.

Anywhere with a smooth and even surface was enough. 



# Interview with literary critic Jeon So-yeong

The story’s title, “Anna’s Diary,” is reminiscent of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager who had documented her life under the Nazi regime in a diary. She had recorded both trivial and significant events in her life. She badmouthed grownups, talked about her first period and her first kiss. To Anne Frank, a diary was more than just a secret record but a documentation of her short life to be read by the world after she is gone. Her diary was the only proof of her existence when the lives of her family and herself were constantly threatened. I think it was the same for Anna in this story. She used her diary to publicize her existence to the world and document her life. If she didn’t have this diary, she wouldn’t have been able to relate to the world. In short, Anna’s diary was a bridge between her and other townspeople. 



물론 확실히 달라진 게 있긴 했다.

그건 안나가 더 이상 일기를 쓰지 않는다는 것이었다.

단순히 안나에게 일기를 쓸 기력이나 흥미가 없어진 것인지,

주변을 자유롭게 관찰할 수 없어서 

쓸 수 없게 된 것인지 알 수 없으나 우리는 섭섭했다.

ut there was something that definitely changed. She no longer wrote in her diary. We didn’t know whether she had lost her energy or interest to write or her inability to explore the town kept her from writing. Regardless, we were disappointed.


그러면서 우리는 저 종안의 일기만은 읽지 않기로 다짐했다.

안나의 비밀을 속속들이 알고 있는 우리였지만

그것만큼은 지켜 주는 게 마지막 도리라고 생각해서였다.

After a while we decided not to read the entries written inside the bell. We believed it was our last duty to keep them safe. 


실은 너무 높은 곳이라 읽으려고 시도하는 사람도 없었다.

아마 안나의 비밀은 신만이 알 것이고,

다른 일기와 마찬가지로 시간의 풍화가 그 모든 것을 말끔하게 지워 버릴 것이다.

안나가 우리의 기억에서 언젠가는 사라질 것처럼.

To be honest, though, nobody attempted to read them because the tower was too high. Only God knew of Anna’s secrets and much like other diaries, time would eventually wipe away everything. Just like Anna would disappear from our memories one day. 


아쉽지만 여기까지가 우리가 알고 있는 안나 이야기의 전부이고,

그 후 성당의 종은 더 이상 울리지 않았다.

Sadly, this is everything we know of Anna and the church bell didn’t ring anymore after that. 




Jang Eun-jin (Born in Gwangju, 1976~ )

Debuted by winning the JoongAng New Writers’ Award with “Kitchen Laboratory” in 2004

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