The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (New York Review Books) (New York Review Books (Paperback))

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9781590176207: The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (New York Review Books) (New York Review Books (Paperback))
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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.

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Review:

That early on I developed a critical distance from the ideologies of the epoch I owe to writers like Simon Leys and Guy Debord. They kept me from being a dupe.

--(Olivier Assayas)

The message these pieces drive home with wit and uncommon clarity is this: there is a central truth that may no, must! be spoken. There is a manner by which life may be lived fully and well. And there is a richer, deeper, grander conception of human nature than we are currently given to understand. 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)

About the Author:

SIMON LEYS is the pen name of the literary critic, essayist, historical novelist, and eminent sinologist Pierre Ryckmans. Born in Belgium in 1935, he settled in Australia in 1970 and was a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Sydney from 1987 to 1993. His works include Chinese Shadows (1977), The Death of Napoleon (1991), a new translation of the Analects of Confucius (1997), and The Angel and the Octopus (1999). A fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and a member of the Académie Royale de Littérature Française (Belgium), he was awarded the Prix mondial Cino del Duca in 2004.

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