Loving care helps talent emerge
A sample of works translated by Jin Xiaoyu. ZHANG YUHUAN/CHINA NEWS SERVICE
Mental health challenges mask a remarkable intelligence and a gift for translation, Ma Zhenhuan reports in Hangzhou.
For Jin Xiaoyu, who has had mental health issues for 30 years, parental love and his interest in translation are the most powerful weapons to fight the condition. His story, which was published recently in a newspaper, has ignited calls for greater attention and care for patients like him.
'My genius son'
"My son is a genius," said Jin Xingyong, Jin Xiaoyu's 86-year-old father, when he called Hangzhou Daily, a newspaper in East China's Zhejiang province, earlier this month to ask if the newspaper would be interested in publishing his son's story.
According to Jin Xingyong, Jin Xiaoyu, 50, had navigated a difficult path over the past few decades.
An accident left him blind in one eye but the then 6-year-old Jin Xiaoyu remained positive and even comforted his parents by saying one eye still gave him vision.
But life continued to pose challenges as he grew up. He developed abnormal behavior and resisted attending high school.
"He was transformed into a different person," said Jin Xingyong, the father, according to Hangzhou Daily. "He stayed in bed all day, saying nothing to us. And he became unstable and moody, losing his temper frequently. He toppled the refrigerator. It was the first time that he had developed violent behavior. Since then, he has destroyed television sets, washing machines, tables, cabinets and doors. That's why there is no television in our home now."
After a nearly three-year absence from school, Jin Xiaoyu suddenly decided to take the college entrance examination. Remarkably, he got a good grade, which pleasantly surprised his parents.
However, emotional problems resurfaced after a year at college and he dropped out of school again. But then Jin studied hard at home for two years and got a self-study diploma in English from Zhejiang University, one of the top universities in China.
His parents didn't realize that Jin was experiencing symptoms of psychosis until he tried to commit suicide twice. They sent him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
"Xiaoyu has visited a mental hospital for treatment almost every year since 1992," said Jin Xingyong. "And I've read many books about mental challenges since then."
One book entitled Manic Depression and Creativity comforted the desperate father to some degree. It says that patients with bipolar disorder will cherish their lives with renewed vigor after surviving a suicide attempt, and some are creative geniuses, such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Vincent van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.
"But I never supposed that Xiaoyu would be a genius," said Jin Xingyong, "For me and his mother, all we wanted was that he was alive and nothing else mattered."
Those were difficult years for the family, during which they needed to spend money on medical treatment and pay for damage to other property caused by Jin Xiaoyu. But the parents still tried their best to provide everything their son needed. They bought more than 200 books for him.
In 1993, Jin Xingyong spent 12,000 yuan ($1,900) on a computer for his son, even though he knew that it might be smashed. But the computer survived and became the key for Jin Xiaoyu to open the door to a world of translation.
Jin Xiaoyu used the computer solely to learn languages and watch English-language movies. He learned German and Japanese and hugely improved his English skills in just six years.
A positive spin was put on his life in 2010 when Cao Meizao, Jin Xiaoyu's mother, joined a college reunion and met a professor of Nanjing University who offered the son a translation job.
The Nanjing University Press sent eight short stories, written by Andres Barrett, an American author, and asked him to translate one of them as a trial. He finished the translation of Ship Fever, and requested to translate the other seven stories.
Jin Xingyong was worried about his decision but Jin Xiaoyu then revealed that he had read almost all foreign language novels in Zhejiang Library and he could do as well as the translators.
Jin Xiaoyu's translation skill was recognized by the press. In the following 10 years, he has translated 22 books, including novels and books about films, music and philosophy, in English, Japanese and German.