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Powell's Q&A

Shan Sa

Describe your latest project.
An exhibition of my paintings in New York at Marlborough Gallery from July 24 to August 8. It includes a group of brush-and-ink works that present fabled landscapes on the route of Alexander the Great from Greece through what are today Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Inspired by Chinese calligraphy, this group of paintings depicts the cavalry charges, tribesmen, exotic plants, and wild animals during Alexander's time.

  1. Alexander and Alestria "Romance, action, and intrigue combine to set the stage for a page-turning romp through alternate history." Booklist

    "[A] sweeping, heroic romance." Publishers Weekly

  2. Empress
    $1.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist


    Shan Sa
    "[A] sweeping panoramic historical novel....A compelling read and surprisingly easy to follow, given its exotic complexity." Kirkus Reviews
Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
False. Politicians are better liars than writers.

How do you relax?
I talk to trees and animals. We have interesting conversations about food, weather, and love. They sometimes can predict the future.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
In Naples, a tiny square bordered by trees and palaces in ruins. It was a sunny morning. People and dogs passed by.

To accompany my coffee espresso, I allowed myself a croissant filled with Nutella.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Living in harmony with nature, flying around the earth.

On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
Sunshine, especially when it is clear and cold. May I ask why this question?

Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
I have written too much about lives — I feel I have lived for too long.

Now I am waiting for the ideal surprises.

If you could have been someone else, who would that be and why?
I would like to be a philosopher in ancient Athens and a poet in ancient China.

Make a question of your own, then answer it.
Q: Where will you be next Christmas: France, China, United States, Africa?

A: No idea.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Three Novels about the Lovers:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

The Princess of Cleves by Madame de Lafayette

Dream of the Red Chamber by Tsao Hsueh-Chin Xue Qin

Two about the Unloved:

Madame Bovary by Flaubert

War and Peace by Tolstoy

÷ ÷ ÷

Shan Sa is the author of several acclaimed novels, including Empress and The Girl Who Played Go (winner of France's Goncourt Prize). Born in Beijing, she moved to Paris in 1990. She is also a celebrated artist who has had prominent exhibitions in Paris and New York.


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