"In Bei Daos short stories, collected in Waves, the images are often equally powerful, but now the form lets Bei Dao explore his own self and his own society with more leisure.
Bei Daos vision is not totally despairing, although he has seen and heard about much that might justify such an attitude. But it is certainly dark, and the flashes of light that cut through the haze of anguished memory seem at times too frail to make up for all the loss. At their best, his stories are almost unbearably poignant. In The Homecoming Stranger, a father returns home to his family after 20 years in political labor camps. Almost totally unable to communicate after his years of lonely suffering, at the storys end the man gives to his daughter the one thing of beauty he has been able to make in hell, a necklace he painstakingly assembled for her over the years, made entirely of the colored, broken handles of discarded toothbrushes.
The 130-page novella Waves, which gives the volume its title, is Bei Daos most ambitious work; it was initially drafted in 1974, revised in 1976, and again in 1979 for his own journal, Today. Like many of Bei Daos stories it is about people who insist on believing in love, even when society and those around them make such belief seem folly. But it also introduces the underside of Chinese society in the 1970s, the crooks and thugs who manage to add an extra level of despair to those Chinese already harried or driven almost mad by the state. Bei Dao is an imagist, and the varied characters in Waves circle and swoop around one another in unpredictable rhythms; their lives intersect without premeditation. Stories are pieced together out of fragments; decisions are made, unmade, deferred.
From Jonathan. D. Spence "On the Outs in Beijing." New York Times Book Review (Sun, Aug. 12, 1990), p.6
"Bei Dao and his Audiences." by Haun Saussy