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Monday, October 20 2014 @ 08:04 AM CDT

Death of Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys

Europe

It is sad duty to report that on Monday, 4 August 2014, Pierre Ryckmans died in Sydney, Australia, where he was being treated for cancer. He was 78 years old.

Death of Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys

It is sad duty to report that on Monday, 4 August 2014, Pierre Ryckmans died in Sydney, Australia, where he was being treated for cancer. He was 78 years old.

Born in Brussels, Belgium on 28 September 1935, Pierre Ryckmans came from an illustrious family. His grandfather, Alphonse, was the Vice President of the Belgian Senate; one uncle (who shares his name) was the General Governor of the Belgian Congo; while another uncle, Gonzague, was a global authority on Arabic epigraphy.

In 1955, Ryckmans took part in a delegation of Belgian youths who’d been invited to the so-called People’s Republic of China, which was then keen to win international recognition and acceptance. This experience was to change his life. He’d discovered what Malraux had called “the other pole of human experience,” and immediately started to learn Chinese, which was something few Belgians had ever done. He eventually took up residence in Taiwan, hired by Chiang Kai-shek’s government. While there and in Formosa, he developed a strong interest in Chinese painting, as well.

Later on, in 1963, he settled in Hong Kong. For the rest of the decade, he was a disabused and highly critical “China Watcher,” and he eventually employed as a reporter and analyst for the Belgian Embassy in Peking. It was there that he wrote the reports that would be compiled under the name Les Habits neufs du président Mao (President Mao’s New Clothes), published in France in 1971 thanks to the ex-situationist René Viénet and Guy Debord’s friend and publisher, Gérard Lebovici. Attributed to “Simon Leys,” a pseudonym that Ryckmans adopted and later used for several other “anti-Maoist” books, Les Habits neufs du président Mao achieved a certain world-wide notoriety: it was hated by Maoists, especially those in Western Europe.

Though Les Habits neufs Mao was translated into English by Carol Appleyard and Patrick Goode and published by St. Martin’s Press as "The Chairman's new clothes: Mao and the cultural revolution" in 1977, the work of Ryckmans / Leys remains little known in the English-speaking world. To rectify this situation, we have not only written this short obituary, but have translated two recent essays about Ryckmans / Leys into English from the French: one by Pierre Haski, the other by Laurent Six.

http://www.notbored.org/haski.pdf

http://www.notbored.org/leys.pdf

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Death of Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys | 1 comments | Create New Account
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Death of Pierre Ryckmans, aka Simon Leys
Authored by: Bill Not Bored on Friday, August 29 2014 @ 12:48 PM CDT

Just a note to say he died on 11 August 2014, not 4 August.