A French-language writer, literary critic, and winner of the Prix mondial Del Duca, he is best known by the pseudonym of Simon Leys. His works include Chinese Shadows, Analects of Confucius, and Orwell, ou l'horreur de la politique.
He studied law at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
He was a Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney from 1987-1993.
He grew up in Brussels, Belgium. He lived in Hong Kong before ultimately settling in Australia.
His 1986 novel, The Death of Napoleon, was the basis for Alan Taylor's 2001 film, The Emperor's New Clothes.