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"Housemistress B and Love Letters" by Hyun Jin-geon

#Books on Demand l 2021-05-11

Books on Demand

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Housemistress B, a teacher and dormitory housemother of C Girls’ School, is known for being a strict celibatarian and devout Christian. 

A spinster nearing 40 years of age, she has a face full of freckles and her appearance could not be farther from that of a demure virgin. Not only that, her shriveled, awkward, thin, pale frame reminded people of a moldy dried fish. 

She was so strict and unforgiving that dormitory residents shivered in dread whenever she glared from behind the reading glasses with her eyes harsh and her lips tightly sealed. 


C여학교에서 교원 겸 기숙사 사감 노릇을 하는 B여사라면,

딱장대요, 독신주의자요, 찰진 야소꾼으로 유명하다.

사십에 가까운 노처녀인 그는 주근깨 투성이 얼굴이,

처녀다운 맛이란 약에 쓰려도 찾을 수 없을 뿐인가,

시들고 거칠고 마르고 누렇게 뜬 품이

곰팡 슬은 굴비를 생각나게 한다.

뾰족한 입을 앙다물고 돋보기 너머로 쌀쌀한 눈이 노릴 때엔

기숙생들이 오싹하고 몸서리를 치리만큼 그는 엄격하고 매서웠다.

The lamp light was still on and the bed was littered with the envelopes of love letters addressed to the dormitory residents and amid the scattered letters sat Headmistress B all by herself. 

She opened her arms as if she was about to embrace someone and her near-sighted eyes were staring at one place. Her dried fish face was contorted in desperate entreaty and her pouted lips appeared to be waiting for a kiss. Then she murmured the same plea in a man’s voice. 

“No, I don’t like it. I don’t like men like you.” 

Then she took one of the love letters addressed to a dormitory resident and caressed it against her face.

“Do you really mean it? Did you love me that much? Do you love me as much as you love your life? Do you love me?” 

Her voice sounded like she was actually sobbing. 

침대 위에는 기숙생에게 온 소위 ‘러브레터’의 봉투가 너저분하게 흩어졌고,

그 알맹이도 여기저기 두서 없이 펼쳐진 가운데

B여사 혼자, 아무도 없이 제 혼자 일어나 앉았다.

누구를 끌어당길 듯이 두 팔을 벌이고, 

안경 벗은 근시안으로 잔뜩 한 곳을 노리며 

그 굴비쪽 같은 얼굴에 말할 수 없이 애원하는 표정을 짓고는

키스를 기다리는 것 같이 입을 쫑굿이 내어민 채

사내의 목청을 내어가면서 아깟말을 중얼거린다.

“난 싫어요.  당신 같은 사내는 난 싫어요 ” 

그러더니 문득 편지 한 장을, 물론 기숙생에게 온 

러브레터의 하나를 집어 들어 얼굴에 문지르며,

“정 말씀이야요? 나를 그렇게 사랑하셔요?” 

하고 몸을 추스르는데 

그 음성은 분명히 울음의 가락을 띠었다.

Interview by SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho

This story is written as a satire. The main character, Housemistress B, is described as a teacher and dormitory headmistress, a celibatarian and devout Christian. Her job, religion and lifestyle choice define her as a character. In the early 1920s, fundamental Christianity was commonplace in Korean society and many people believed in remaining celibate and devoting their lives to God or for some ideal value like the welfare of humankind. Perhaps Hyun Jin-geon wanted to scorn the lack of humanity or love in this kind of ideology. 

Hyun Jin-geon (Born in Daegu, Aug. 9, 1900~Apr. 25, 1943)

: Debuted by publishing short story “Huisaenghwa (Sacrificial Flower)”

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