Simon Leys is the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans, who was born in Belgium and settled in Australia in 1970. He taught Chinese literature at the Australian National University and was Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney from 1987 to 1993. Leys’s writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, Le Monde, Le Figaro Littéraire, and other periodicals. Among his books are Chinese Shadows, The Death of Napoleon (forthcoming from NYRB Classics), Other People’s Thoughts, and The Wreck of the Batavia & Prosper. In 1996 he delivered the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Boyer lectures. His many awards include the Prix Renaudot, the Prix Femina, the Prix Guizot, and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.
“Simon Leys is living proof of Benjamin Franklin’s dictum that a cultured individual should be a jack of all trades.” (Sydney Morning Herald). Here the eminent sinologist and frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books turns his attention to such subjects as the Cultural Revolution, Nabokov, Hitchens, Orwell, Simenon, Confucius, and the fate of the university.