A poet tells you about himself and a novelist brings knowledge of the world. In Wang's writings we see the absurdity in China under the totalitarian rule from a compeletly different angle - yet how enlightening it is! - that power by its masochist nature has found its sadist victims. Reading through these stories marked by Wang's now famous witty and satire tone, you laugh with heavy sighs yet at same time, strangely, don't feel depressed. Other than the value of love itself Wang has tried to explore in stories like Golden Age, an important reason for this is that he has shown you a way to understand absurdity in life, by his super intelligence and the power of his calm and acute observation. As Kundera once noted: "All we can do in the face of that ineluctable defeat called life is to try to understand it. That is the raison d'Ítre of the art of the novel."
So when we read about Chen Qingyang's laments and her sudden epiphany of "so-called truth" - "The truth is that you can't wake up. That was the moment she finnaly figured out what the world was made of; and the next moment she made up her mind: she stepped forward to accept the torment. She felt unusually happy." Don't we also feel unusually sad and happy at same time? Sad at seeing "that ineluctable defeat" part of life, happy at the final understanding of the absurdity made of her living. That's the enjoyment of reading a good novel.
Hats off to the great translation done by Zhang and Sommers. Wang deserves such a first-class English version for his wonderful work.