FrancoisCheng, a 72-year-old writer and painter of Chinese origin, was born in the city of Nanchang and moved to France in 1948, just before the Communist takeover in China.
President Jacques Chirac praised Mr Cheng as a "tremendous writer" and a "wise man for our time", saying his appointment to the Academie illustrated "the fight for diversity and cultural diaologue, which is France's fight".
The advent of Communist rule in China meant that Mr Cheng, who arrived in France on a scholarship, was unable to return to his homeland for 36 years.
Cheng, who was born in Nanjing in 1929 and settled in France in 1945, is a professor at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris.
Since Cheng's previous publications include art criticism, it is not surprising that the most intellectually engaging moments in the novel are actually extended commentaries on art.
Because Fran?ois Cheng is so well versed in the intellectual traditions of both China and the West (particularly France), he is especially insightful in the ways that cultures speak to each other across continents and oceans.
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