Simon Leys is the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans, who was born in Belgium and settled in Australia in 1970. He was a Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney from 1987 to 1993. Ryckmans adopted the pen name of Simon Leys in 1971 on the advice of his editor in order to protect his ability to continue travelling to China.
Ryckmans is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and Member of the Academie Royale de Literature Francaise (Belgium). His works, some of which have been awarded prizes in Australia, France, and the UK, include Chinese Shadows (1977), The Death of Napoleon (1991), and a new translation of the Analects of Confucius (1997). His most recent work is The Angel and the Octopus, a collection of his essays from 1983-1998.
Ryckmans studied law and art history at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. After participating in a month-long youth delegation to China in 1955, Ryckmans began studying Chinese language, art, and literature in Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.