Sa, Shan 1972-

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SA, Shan 1972-
[A pseudonym]
(Nan Yi)


Born October 28, 1972, in Beijing, China.


Home—Paris, France.


Writer. Former secretary for the French painter Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski), 1994-96.


Goncourt Prize, 1997, for Gate of Celestial Peace, 2001, for The Girl Who Played Go; Cazes Prize, 1999, for The Four Lives of the Willow; Kiriyama Prize, 2001, for The Girl Who Played Go.



Porte de la paix céleste (novel; title means "Gate of Celestial Peace"), Rocher (Monaco), 1999.

Les quatre vies du saule (novel; title means "The Four Lives of the Willow"), Gallimard (Paris, France), 1999.

Le vent vif et le glaive rapide, William Blake (Bordeaux, France), 2000.

La joueuse de go (novel), B. Grasset (Paris, France), 2001, translated by Adriana Hunter as The Girl Who Played Go,, Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Le miroir du calligraphe, Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2002.

Impératrice (novel), Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2003, translated by Adriana Hunter as Empress, Reagan Books (New York, NY), 2006.

Les conspirateurs (novel; title means "The Conspirators"), Albin Michel (Paris, France), 2005.

Also author of four poetry collections published between 1980 and 1990.


Born in Beijing, China, Shan Sa was a published poet by the age of eight, and she went on to publish four compilations of poetry by the age of seventeen. She decided to leave China in 1990 after the events at Tian'anmen Square, and joined her father in Paris, France. After studying philosophy and sociology at L'École Alsacienne, Sa spent two years working for the celebrated French avant-garde painter Balthus and was strongly influenced by not only the artist but his wife, feminist Setsuko Ideta, who introduced her to Japanese culture.

Sa's first novel, Porte de la paix céleste ("Gate of Celestial Peace"), was awarded the Goncourt Prize, and several of her books went on to garner major literary prizes as well. La joueuse de go was the first of Sa's novels to be translated into English. Under the title The Girl Who Played Go, the novel earned her a second Goncourt Prize, in addition to the Kiriyama Prize for fiction that encourages greater understanding of Asian culture. The Girl Who Played Go is set in 1930s Manchuria during the Japanese invasion, and shares the story of a sixteen-year-old girl and a Japanese soldier whose lives become entwined while playing the ancient game of go.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the novel as an "intense, operatic personal tragedy magnified by Sa's sense of history and Eastern culture." School Library Journal reviewer Ted Westervelt further observed that Sa's technique of limiting chapters to only a few pages and alternating between the key characters' voices "allows the author to capture the moods of the characters with brilliant simplicity." A Publishers Weekly contributor similarly wrote: "The alternating parallel tales add an extra spark of energy to this swift-moving novel, as Sa portrays tenderness and brutality with equal clarity." Entertainment Weekly critic Jennifer Reese regarded the novel as "dreamy yet powerful" and "beautiful, shocking, and sad."

Empress is the second of Sa's novels to be translated into English. It is a fictional account of the life of China's only female emperor, who ruled at the turn of the eighth century. In a review for the Identity Theory Web site, Summer Block wrote that Sa's "sense of place is sublime" and that she "succeeds most masterfully at emphasizing the absolute, radical alterity of imperial China and life in the Forbidden City, daring her readers to confront a protagonist whose otherness all but obliterates conventional sympathy, and to share a life utterly unlike any other in history."



Booklist, October 15, 2003, Elsa Gaztambide, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 392.

Entertainment Weekly, October 17, 2003, Jennifer Reese, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 86.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2003, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 1152.

Kliatt, March, 2005, Myrna Marler, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, September 29, 2003, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 43.

School Library Journal, January, 2004, Ted Westervelt, review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 164.

World Literature Today, September-December, 2005, Alan Cheuse, "Off the Air: Book Reviews from National Public Radio," review of The Girl Who Played Go, p. 14.


Identity Theory, (September 21, 2006), Summer Block, review of Empress. *