An NYRB Classics Original
With a foreword by the author.
Simon Leys is a Renaissance man for the era of globalization: a distinguished scholar of classical Chinese art and literature, he was one of the first Westerners to expose the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Leys’s interests and expertise are not, however, confined to China: he also writes about European art, literature, history, and politics, and is an unflinching observer of the way we live now. No matter the topic he writes with unfailing elegance and intelligence, seriousness and acerbic wit. Leys is, in short, not simply a critic or commentator but an essayist, and one of the most outstanding ones of our time.
The Hall of Uselessness gathers the finest of Leys’s essays for an American audience for the first time. On subjects ranging from China to Orwell and from Quixotism to the sea, Leys feuds with Christopher Hitchens, ponders the popularity of Victor Hugo, and considers whether Vladimir Nabokov’s posthumous novel should ever have been published. He dissects Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the Khmer Rouge regime, and discusses the legacies of Waugh, Chesterton, Simenon, and Confucius. He discusses Chinese art, culture, and politics; the joys of literary translation; and the fate of the university.
The Hall of Uselessness is an illuminating compendium from a brilliant and quirky writer and an exemplary global voice.
…one of Australia’s superlative essayists and the closest thing we have to a scholar-artist on the classical Chinese model…To see Leys’s essays assembled is to appreciate, if you haven’t already, the range of philosophical, artistic and literary interests that sustain even his slightest productions.
—Geordie Williamson, The Australian