Mitchell in 2006
|Born||David Stephen Mitchell|
12 January 1969
Southport, Lancashire, England
|Alma mater||University of Kent|
Black Swan Green
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
The Bone Clocks
|Notable awards||John Llewellyn Rhys Prize |
David Stephen Mitchell (born 12 January 1969) is an English novelist of innovative storytelling. He has published seven novels, two of which, number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004), were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. In 2012, Cloud Atlas was made into a film and in 2013 a short film, The Voorman Problem, was made from one segment of number9dream.
Mitchell was born in Southport in Lancashire (now Merseyside), England, and raised in Malvern, Worcestershire. He was educated at Hanley Castle High School and at the University of Kent, where he obtained a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature.
Mitchell lived in Sicily for a year, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England, where he could live on his earnings as a writer and support his pregnant wife.
Mitchell's first novel, Ghostwritten (1999), moves around the globe, from Okinawa to Mongolia to pre-Millennial New York City, as nine narrators tell stories that interlock and intersect. The novel won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (for best work of British literature written by an author under 35) and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His two subsequent novels, number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004), were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2003, he was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. In 2007, Mitchell was listed among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.
In 2012 his novel Cloud Atlas was made into a film. One segment of number9dream was made into a BAFTA-nominated short film in 2013 starring Martin Freeman, titled The Voorman Problem. In recent years he has also written opera libretti. Wake, based on the 2000 Enschede fireworks disaster and with music by Klaas de Vries, was performed by the Dutch Nationale Reisopera in 2010. He has also finished another opera, Sunken Garden, with the Dutch composer Michel van der Aa, which premiered in 2013 by the English National Opera.
Several of Mitchell's book covers were created by design duo Kai and Sunny. Mitchell has also collaborated with the duo, by contributing two short stories to their art exhibits in 2011 and 2014.
Mitchell's sixth novel, The Bone Clocks, was published on 2 September 2014. In an interview in The Spectator, Mitchell said that the novel has "dollops of the fantastic in it", and is about "stuff between life and death".The Bone Clocks was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.
I Have the Room Above Her, Mitchell's ninth novel, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on June 4, 2020.
In 2015, Mitchell contributed plotting and scripted scenes for the second season of the Netflix show Sense8. Mitchell had signed a contract to write season three before Netflix cancelled the show. He is credited as a writer on the Sense8 series finale special.
After another stint in Japan, Mitchell currently lives with his wife, Keiko Yoshida, and their two children in Ardfield, Clonakilty in County Cork, Ireland. In an essay for Random House, Mitchell wrote: "I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but until I came to Japan to live in 1994 I was too easily distracted to do much about it. I would probably have become a writer wherever I lived, but would I have become the same writer if I'd spent the last six years in London, or Cape Town, or Moose Jaw, on an oil rig or in the circus? This is my answer to myself."
Mitchell has the speech disorder of stammering and considers the film The King's Speech (2010) to be one of the most accurate portrayals of what it's like to be a stammerer: "I'd probably still be avoiding the subject today had I not outed myself by writing a semi-autobiographical novel, Black Swan Green, narrated by a stammering 13 year old." Mitchell is also a patron of the British Stammering Association.
Mitchell's son has autism. In 2013 he and his wife Keiko Yoshida translated a book which they claimed was written by Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old Japanese boy with autism, titled The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice from the Silence of Autism. In 2017, Mitchell and his wife translated the follow-up book which they also claimed was written by Higashida, Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism. Researchers are doubtful that he wrote the book himself, with psychologist Jens Hellman claiming that Higashida's accounts "resemble what I would deem very close to an autistic child's parents' dream."
Mitchell has translated the novels The Reason I Jump and Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8 from Japanese to English, which are credited to Naoki Higashida ( Higashida Naoki, born August 12, 1992), a severely autistic Japanese individual. Researchers have doubted that Mitchell should give Higashida credit with writing the original Japanese versions, as those works were done through facilitated communication, which is scientifically debunked. Writing for In-Mind, psychologist Jens Hellman is also skeptical that Higashida should get credit, claiming that Higashida's accounts "resemble what I would deem very close to an autistic child's parents' dream." Higashida can verbally talk, but only can repeat certain phrases. Some sources have mistakenly claimed that he is nonverbal.
Michael Fitzpatrick, a medical writer known for writing about controversies in autism from the perspective of someone who is both a physician and a parent of a child with autism, said some skepticism of how much Higashida contributed to the book was justified because of the "scant explanation" of the process Higashida's mother used for helping him write using the character grid and expressed concern that the book "reinforces more myths than it challenges". Fitzpatrick also disagrees with Mitchell's claim that this book will make parents of severely autistic children feel better, as he reinforces the myth that most severely autistic individuals have significant hidden potential.
Sallie Tisdale, writing for The New York Times, said the book raised questions about autism, but also about translation and she wondered how much the work was influenced by the three adults (Higashida's mother, Yoshida, and Mitchell) involved in translating the book and their experiences as parents of autistic children. She concluded, "We have to be careful about turning what we find into what we want."
Mitchell has claimed in response to skeptics that there are videos of Higashida typing independently; however, Dr. Deborah Fein and Dr. Yoko Kamio claim that in one video where he is featured, his mother is constantly guiding his arm.