A Beautiful Mind: Translator With Bipolar Disorder Captivates China

The multilingual translator’s life story has inspired Chinese netizens and even generated interest in a film adaptation

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8:51 PM HKT, Thu January 20, 2022 1 mins read

A story published on Monday about a Chinese multilingual translator who has bipolar disorder has blown up the internet and touched the hearts of many.

Jin Xiaoyu, 50, has translated 22 books from the languages of English, German, and Japanese to Chinese since 2010 — with more than 10 of them published.

His translated works include Ship Fever, written by American writer Andrea Barrett, Mefisto by Irish writer John Banville, and The Bridegroom Was a Dog by Japanese writer Yoko Tawada.

Jin’s father, Jin Xingyong, told their story to the Chinese publication Hangzhou Daily in a piece titled “Our Genius Son.”

“Can you write my son’s story? He is a genius. He is in a psychiatric hospital, and his mother just passed away today,” the 85-year-old father asked the editors on the phone.

After an accident, Jin lost vision in his left eye at the age of 6. Despite the hindrance to his vision, he continued school and became one of the top students in the class.

However, his personality significantly changed during high school, and he was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has since visited the hospital for treatment every year.

translator bipolar disorder

A photo of Jin Xiaoyu and his father when they were younger. Image via Weibo

He eventually dropped out of high school and spent the next six years learning and improving his German, Japanese, and English.

In 2010, an opportunity came to Jin, who was unemployed at the time because of his mental illness: One of his mother’s fellow alumni introduced a translation gig to him.

Jin’s first translation was the book Ship Fever. Now, 12 years later, his 22nd translated work, The Correspondence of Walter Benjamin, is expected to be released next month.

After Hangzhou Daily published the story online, it quickly took the internet by storm. The hashtag for the story had garnered 2.58 million views on Weibo at the time of writing.

“Thanks to excellent translators, we’re able to read from great foreign authors. This story of Jin is so beautiful and moving,” one commenter posted on Weibo.

“After reading the whole article, I am very emotional. The resilience of life and the love of parents gave him a stage to shine on,” another chimed in. “I hope their family has a happy future and Jin can translate more good works.”

The publication posted a follow-up article on Tuesday, claiming that many people had contacted the newspaper and Jin’s family for further interviews and offering help. And at least seven film studios have expressed interest in bringing Jin’s story to the big screen.

Jin’s father also told Hangzhou Daily that Jin had been discharged from the hospital and returned home. He is now working on the translation of Arcade Project, another book by Walter Benjamin.

All images via Weibo

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