Cloud Atlas novelist David Mitchell to co-translate breakthrough Japanese 'autism memoir'


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The Independent Culture

The Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and his wife have co-translated an acclaimed book, written by a Japanese child, about his experience of growing up with autism.

Mitchell and his wife, Keiko Yoshida, have translated The Reason I Jump, by Japanese writer Naoki Higishida, who has autism and wrote the book when he was 13 years-old.

The book is intended to explain the behaviour of a child, who was diagnosed with severe autism aged five and to show the way that Naoki responded to the people around him, including his ability to embrace concepts such as self-harm, beauty, noise and time.

Mitchell and Yoshida have a son together, who has been diagnosed with autism and the Booker Prize nominee, who met his wife when he taught English to students in Japan, will write an introduction to the book.

Publishers Sceptre compared the book, published in July, to The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby, which offered an insight into locked-in syndrome.

Naoki, born in 1992, graduated from high school in 2011 and lives in Kimitsu, Japan. He is a now a motivational speaker and the author of several books of fiction and non-fiction.

Despite a very low verbal fluency, the young Naoki used an alphabet grid to painstakingly spell out his answers to the questions he imagined others most often wonder about him: “why do you talk so loud? Is it true you hate being touched? Would you like to be normal?”

Sceptre said: “Naoki examines issues as diverse and complex as self-harm, perceptions of time and beauty, and the challenges of communication, and in doing so, discredits the popular belief that autistic people are anti-social loners who lack empathy. This book is mesmerising proof that inside an autistic body is a mind as subtle, curious, and caring as anyone else's.”

Yoshida was born in Yamaguchi, Japan and studied English Poetry at Notre Dame Seishin University. She and David Mitchell live with their two children in Ireland.

Mitchell, whose works include the international bestseller The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, auctioned the name of a character in a novel to benefit an autism charity in 2010. The film of Cloud Atlas, a science-fiction epic starring Tom Hanks and set across six different eras, has just opened.