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INTERVIEW: “Anne of Green Gables” still popular in Japan thanks to freedom theme

September 6, 2019

Prince Edward Island, Canada--A grandchild of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), best known for "Anne of Green Gables," a novel featuring Anne Shirley, a fictional red-haired orphan girl, attributes the best seller's long popularity in Japan to the work's evocation of a sense of freedom, among other factors.

"I think it's a combination of a lot of things," Kate Macdonald Butler, the 62-year-old granddaughter, said in a recent interview held on Prince Edward Island, eastern Canada, where the novel, released in 1908, is set and the author was born.

"When it was published in 1952 (in Japan), it was sort of a freedom story for a woman to read," she said. "I grandmother's way of describing nature is also very similar to traditional Japanese texts," Kate added.

Eri Muraoka, a granddaughter of the late Hanako Muraoka, the first Japanese translator of the novel, said the work "depicts a feature in human society that never changes over 100 years--to coexist while showing compassion to one another."

In 2008, which marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, Kate publicly disclosed that her grandmother killed herself by taking drugs after developing mental disorders partly from nursing her husband, who had been suffering depression.

Explaining the reason for revealing the circumstances of her grandmother's death, she said: "I think there's so much stigma attached to mental illness and so many people keep so many secrets. Of course, my family kept this secret for many years as well, and I thought it was time to tell the story."

"I think to tell the story might help someone else, so to bring it all into the open...could possibly help somebody else overcome (their problems)," she said.

Kate herself never met her grandmother, but she heard many stories from her father about her, including one about the late author telling her children stories in a tent set up along a river in summer.

"I had some really lovely times sitting at the dining table when he (Kate's father) told me all about his mother, you know, just how much he loved her," she said. Jiji Press