Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Simon Leys' The Hall of Uselessness (Sydney Morning Herald, September)

Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays
Black Inc; $49.95; 453pp

Simon Leys (aka Pierre Ryckmans) is living proof of Benjamin Franklin’s dictum that a really cultured individual should be a jack of all trades and master of one. An eminent sinologist whose achievements in his field include translations of ancient Chinese texts, books on Chinese history and culture and the supervision of Kevin Rudd’s honours degree, Leys is also a literary critic, essayist and historical novelist. Born in Belgium in 1935 and resident in Australia since 1970, he corroborates, too, the oft-mooted theory that emigration can be helpful to a writer, loosening as it does the shackles of provincialism. The emigrant may become a foreigner in two countries, but he moves a little closer to humanity as a consequence. [More here.]

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