A year ago I wrote a column for Taki’s Magazine about the sinologist Pierre Ryckmans, a.k.a. “Simon Leys.” The piece was titled “The Man Who Blew the Lid Off Maoism.”
Ryckmans died August 11th in Sydney, Australia. He was 78 years old. There is an affectionate obituary by Rowan Callick in The Australian.
It is astonishing to recall now how stupid Westerners–including professional sinologists (and including me)–were about Mao and his Great Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s / early 1970s. Ryckmans did more than anyone to end the stupidity. As I said in my TakiMag piece:
By the end of the seventies, in large part thanks to Leys, it was no longer possible for an honest Westerner to be an uncritical admirer of Mao’s revolution. To anyone paying attention, the Chinese communists were no longer agrarian reformers, champions of social justice, or heralds of a new age: They were just another lying clique of totalitarian gangsters.