Shan Sa’s real name is Yan Ni, and her first name means “swish of the wind”.
We bumped into each other in Macau, one evening in September. Who can explain the powerful mystery of China?
I knew her novel called The Girl Who Played Go, which won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in 1998. And I had enjoyed this story in which voices respond to each other, criss-crossing in one single poetic breath the destinies of the Japanese and Chinese nations like a huge web where the essence of life, the essence of History is played out. An impossible but absolute love story between two young people who are lost and attached to their homeland, a homeland ravaged by cruelty and the boundless devotion of its inhabitants. The History of men in the hands of a girl who played Go.Shan Sa is an exquisite synthesis: she masters the cardinal arts of the east that are calligraphy, the zither, the art of sword-wielding and the Go name, as it happens, and two European languages, namely English and French.She learned two lessons from her escape to Paris in the dark hours of Tien An Men. The first one is philosophy, a major discipline in which she has a degree from a French university, and the second, the essence of Japanese culture, in contact with the painter Balthus. She was secretary to him and his wife Sitsuko.
For Shan Sa, the future lies with the fusion of cultures.
The power of her heroes is not based either on ignorance or on violence. Freedom can only be born from the lucid choice of anyone who has learnt to know themselves and to know the world.
For Shan, poetry, and ancient poetry in particular, is a gift and the source of everything, and the novel is a fight that leads one to win over one’s weakness in order to triumph. I very much like this definition of a discipline that is novel writing, which at the same time is the art of telling and the art of showing.
Read Shan Sa. Her stories about China, the empress, espionage and a Go player. Her stories about doubles and mirrors that never reflect the image one might expect.
Look at her paintings on Shan-Sa.com. Her masterful brushstrokes leave plenty of room for your dreams in her red mountains and dragons flying through the mists of spring and winter: they impose nothing; they suggest and invite you on a journey.
For Shan Sa, “Happiness is something you lay siege to, it is a battle like a game of Go.”
I met her on a September evening in Macau: “There is no moon tonight, and the wind wails like a newborn baby. Up above us, a god confronts a goddess, scattering the stars” (The Girl Who Played Go, Grasset, 2001).
And Shan Sa walked by, almost without stopping, as if she “had a date with a man, a god and an empire” (The Empress, 2003).