From fiction to translation, such have been the works of David Mitchell, best known for being the author of Sci-Fi novel Cloud Atlas, which was just recently adapted into a film. Mitchell and his wife K.A. Yoshida have been involved with The Reason I Jump, a book by a Japanese boy with severe autism, as translators. He has also written the introduction for the English release.
“My wife had been hearing about the book and when she got a copy of it, in Japanese, she found it quite revelatory,” Mitchell said in an interview. The Cloud Atlas author is also a father to an autistic child. The translator described the book as a helpful tool in understanding his own child. “It is no exaggeration to say that The Reason I Jump allowed me to round a corner in our relationship,” he said.
However, working as a translator was without intention. It only came after his wife interpreted “the passages she felt were most useful in the book” and with the encouragement of his publisher. The translation process, according to British Book Awards Literary Fiction awardee, took 18 months to complete. “The translation did distract me and take hours away from my novel, but in the long run it will pay dividends,” Mitchell recalled. “It stimulates a part of your brain that you don’t normally use. I think it will feed into my own writing in some ways I haven’t realized yet and in other ways that I’m already aware of.”
The book’s author, Naoki Higashida, now 21 years old, was only 13 years old when he completed The Reason I Jump. In his memoir, he answered questions like “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” as well as “What’s the reason you jump?” People with autism are known for not making any eye contact, so the question “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” was also asked. His answers were described as pure and disarming.