David Mitchell (author)

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David Mitchell
Mitchell in 2006
Mitchell in 2006
BornDavid Stephen Mitchell
(1969-01-12) 12 January 1969 (age 51)
Southport, Lancashire, England
ResidenceCounty Cork, Ireland
Alma materUniversity of Kent
Notable worksGhostwritten
Cloud Atlas
Black Swan Green
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
The Bone Clocks
Slade House
Notable awardsJohn Llewellyn Rhys Prize
1999 Ghostwritten
SpouseKeiko Yoshida

David Stephen Mitchell (born 12 January 1969) is an English novelist and screenwriter.

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 a scene of number9dream.

Early life[edit]

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.[1]


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.[2] His two subsequent novels, number9dream (2001) and Cloud Atlas (2004), were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.[3] In 2003, he was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists.[4] In 2007, Mitchell was listed among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Several of Mitchell's book covers were created by design duo Kai and Sunny.[9] 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.[10] 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".[11] The Bone Clocks was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.[12]

Mitchell was the second author to contribute to the Future Library project and delivered his book From Me Flows What You Call Time on 28 May 2016.[13][14]

Utopia Avenue, Mitchell's ninth novel, will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on 2 June 2020.[15]

Other works[edit]

In 2015, Mitchell contributed plotting and scripted scenes for the second season of the Netflix show Sense8 by the Wachowskis, who had adapted his novel Cloud Atlas into film.[16] Mitchell had signed a contract to write season three before Netflix cancelled the show.[17] He wrote the series finale special with Lana Wachowski and Aleksandar Hemon.[18]

In August 2019, it was announced that Mitchell would continue his collaboration with Lana Wachowski and Hemon on the fourth film in The Matrix series, writing the screenplay with them.[19]

Personal life[edit]

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:[20] "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[21] 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:[21] "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."[21] Mitchell is also a patron of the British Stammering Association.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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".[25]

Facilitated communication controversy[edit]

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 (東田 直樹, Higashida Naoki, born 12 August 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.[26] 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".[25] Higashida can verbally talk, but only can repeat certain phrases. Some sources have mistakenly claimed that he is nonverbal.[26]

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.[27]

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."[23]

Mitchell has claimed in response to skeptics that there are videos of Higashida typing independently;[24][28] however, Dr. Deborah Fein and Dr. Yoko Kamio claim that in one video where he is featured, his mother is constantly guiding his arm.[26]

List of works[edit]


Short stories

  • "January Man", Granta 81: Best of Young British Novelists, Spring 2003
  • "What You Do Not Know You Want", McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, Vintage Books (Random House), 2004
  • "Acknowledgments", Prospect, 2005
  • "Preface", The Daily Telegraph, April 2006
  • "Dénouement", The Guardian, May 2007
  • "Judith Castle", New York Times, January 2008
  • "An Inside Job", Included in "Fighting Words", edited by Roddy Doyle, published by Stoney Road Press, 2009 (Limited to 150 copies)[29]
  • "The Massive Rat", The Guardian, August 2009
  • "Character Development", The Guardian, September 2009
  • "Muggins Here", The Guardian, August 2010
  • "Earth calling Taylor", Financial Times, December 2010
  • "The Siphoners", Included in "I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet", 2011
  • "The Gardener", in the exhibit "The Flower Show" by Kai and Sunny, 2011 (Limited to 50 copies)
  • "Lots of Bits of Star", in the exhibit "Caught by the Nest" by Kai and Sunny, 2013 (Limited to 50 copies)
  • "Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut", Granta 127: Japan, Spring 2014
  • "The Right Sort", Twitter, 2014
  • "A Forgettable Story", Cathay Pacific Discovery, July 2017


  • "Japan and my writing", Essay
  • "Enter the Maze", The Guardian, 2004
  • "Kill me or the cat gets it", The Guardian, 2005 (Book review of Kafka on the Shore)
  • "Let me speak", British Stammering Association, 2006
  • "On historical fiction", The Telegraph, 2010
  • "Adventures in Opera", The Guardian, 2010
  • "Imaginary City", Geist, 2010
  • "Lost for words", Prospect Magazine, 2011
  • "Learning to live with my son's autism", The Guardian, 2013
  • "David Mitchell on Earthsea – a rival to Tolkien and George RR Martin", The Guardian, 23 October 2015
  • "Kate Bush and me: David Mitchell on being a lifelong fan of the pop poet". The Guardian, 7 December 2018[30]


  • "Wake"
  • "Sunken Garden"



  1. ^ "David Mitchell, The Art of Fiction No. 204", The Paris Review
  2. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (6 November 1999). "Readers pick top Guardian books". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "Man Booker Prize Archive". Archived from the original on 6 January 2012.
  4. ^ Mitchell, D. (2003). "Best of Young British Novelists 2003: The January Man". Granta (81). Archived from the original on 7 September 2012.
  5. ^ "The Transformative Experience of Writing for "Sense8"". The New Yorker. 1 May 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Link to video".
  7. ^ David Mitchell (8 May 2010). "Article by Mitchell describing how he became involved in Wake". Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Details of Sunken Garden from Van der Aa's official website". Vanderaa.net. 9 June 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Kai and Sunny: Publishing"
  10. ^ "New David Mitchell novel out next autumn". The Bookseller. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  11. ^ "Interview with a writer: David Mitchell". The Spectator. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  12. ^ Flood, Alison (30 May 2016). "David Mitchell buries latest manuscript for a hundred years". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  13. ^ "David Mitchell is the Second Author to Join the Future Library Project of 2114". Tor.com. 31 May 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  14. ^ "The Future Library Project: In 100 years, this forest will be harvested to print David Mitchell's latest work". CBC Radio. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  15. ^ Mitchell, David (2 June 2020). Utopia Avenue. ISBN 9781444799446.
  16. ^ "'Sense8': Production begins on Netflix special". EW.com. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  17. ^ Hemon, Aleksandar (27 September 2017). "The Transformative Experience of Writing for "Sense8"". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  18. ^ Miller, Liz Shannon. "'Sense8' Series Finale Special: Writers, Potential Locations Revealed | IndieWire". www.indiewire.com. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  19. ^ Kroll, Justin (20 August 2019). "'Matrix 4' Officially a Go With Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Lana Wachowski". Variety. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  20. ^ "Bold Type: Essay by David Mitchell". Randomhouse.com. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  21. ^ a b c "Lost for words", David Mitchell, Prospect magazine, 23 February 2011, Issue #180
  22. ^ "Black Swan Green revisited". Speaking Out. British Stammering Association. Spring 2011. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  23. ^ a b Tisdale, Sallie (23 August 2013). "Voice of the Voiceless". New York Times. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  24. ^ a b Doherty, Mike (13 July 2017). "David Mitchell on translating—and learning from—Naoki Higashida". Macleans.
  25. ^ a b Block, Stefan Merrill (3 April 2018). "What is the Writer's Responsibility To Those Unable to Tell Their Own Stories?". Literary Hub. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  26. ^ a b c Fein, Deborah; Kamio, Yoko (October 2014), "Commentary on The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida", Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 35 (8): 539–542, doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000098
  27. ^ Fitzpatrick, Michael (23 August 2013). "No, autistic children are not the spiritual saviours of mankind". Spiked online. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  28. ^ MacDonald, Gayle (27 July 2017). "Naoki Higashida shifts the narrative of autism with Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  29. ^ Day, Elizabeth (11 March 2012). "Roddy Doyle: the joy of teaching children to write". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  30. ^ "Kate Bush and me: David Mitchell on being a lifelong fan of the pop poet".
  31. ^ "Author David Mitchell on working with 'hero' Kate Bush".
  32. ^ Fabiana Bianchi (2 October 2017). "Sense8 a Napoli, svelato il titolo dell'attesa puntata finale girata in città". Napolike (in Italian). Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  33. ^ Aleksandar Hemon (27 September 2017). "The Transformative Experience of Writing for "Sense8"". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017.


  • "The world begins its turn with you, or how David Mitchell's novels think". In B. Schoene. The Cosmopolitan Novel. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
  • Dillon, S. (ed.). David Mitchell: Critical Essays. Kent: Gylphi, 2011.

External links[edit]