Anguli Ma: a Gothic Tale

anguli_ma-270x300Anguli Ma is the central figure in a traditional Buddhist folktale, a deranged killer who wears his victims’ fingers in a garland around his neck. Chi Vu presents him as a menacing abattoir worker who carries bloody chunks of meat home to his lodgings in plastic bags, in this suburban Gothic tale set in 1980s Melbourne, when the flight of Vietnamese refugees to Australia was at its height.

The gathering fear, the prevailing darkness, the strange contours of the house which has been divided and sub-divided to accommodate its female occupants, the macabre humour and surreal effects, mark Chi Vu’s novella out as a unique contribution to contemporary Australian storytelling, and our understanding of its communities.


‘In a good year for novellas I was haunted by Chi Vu’s Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale, set in Melbourne’s Vietnamese community in the 1980s. It is fresh and disturbing.’ – The Australian.

‘Every now and again, along comes a book so interesting that it almost takes your breath away, and Anguli Ma, A Gothic Tale  by Chi Vu is just such a book.’ – Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog.

‘Though 39-year-old Chi, who works mostly as a playwright, is one of the few writers of her generation anthologised in the recent Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature, she will be unknown to many readers. Her reworking of a Buddhist folktale in which a strange male abattoir worker with bags of stinking meat moves into Dao’s all-female boarding house in Footscray, is the other stand-out of this series. Set in the Vietnamese community of early 80s Melbourne,Chi finds a perfect chemistry between Australia’s history of serial killers in decrepit suburban wastelands and a refugee community’s repressed memories. It is genuinely terrifying.’

Delia Falconer, The Australian.

‘Anguli Ma- A Gothic Tale is a highly original work drawing on Buddhist and gothic traditions; it should find a larger audience internationally, if not here.’

Hoa Pham, Mascara Literary Review.

‘The writing in Anguli Ma has an extraordinary specificity of texture, mood, and angle of vision, as Chi Vu moves back and forth between close attention to realistic detail and hyperreal, noir, hallucinogenic coloration…The trauma it narrates is stitched into domestic suburban ordinariness with dark, sharp brilliance, to produce ‘a jewel of terror’. That is Chi Vu’s highly original achievement.’

Nicholas Jose, The Wheeler Centre.

‘The writing in Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale is terse, graphic, at times beautifully compressed and charged with insight. The story never explains its themes, just presents its often macabre details in sharp, precise relief. The characters are likewise sharply drawn, never explained. We get to know them through their prejudices and suspicions and delusions, as well as through their plainly described yet still cryptic actions.’

Dao Strom, DiaCRITICS

‘Chi’s adept practice across forms and projects is infused with a consistent awareness of the constructedness of culture and language, a fierce engagement with emotion, and careful attention to the texture of interactions.’ – Tseen Khoo, The Banana Lounge

‘There is a subtlety in this strange and quite unique little book.’ – Walter Mason, the Singapore Review of Books.


Anguli Ma was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Community Relations category.


Giramondo Publishing
Fiction, Paperback, 128pp. ISBN: 978-1-920882-87-7

Amazon eBook Kindle edition > look inside


541225_10150680926000812_579778335_nChi at Anguli book launch