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Tongueless by Lau Yee Wa.jpg

Original title:



Original language

Complex Chinese


Publication info:

Wheatear Publishing

July 2019


234 pages



Literary thriller

Rights handled by New River

Foreign rights

Film/tv rights

Rights sold:

Japan (Misuzu Shobo)

WEL (Serpent's Tail)

 by Lau Yee-Wa

Tongueless shocked me as much as any masterpiece I have ever read. -------Chan Ho-Kei


Wai and Ling are secondary school Chinese language teachers in Hong Kong under the pressure of switching from using Cantonese to Mandarin as a medium of Chinese-language instruction. Apolitical and simply focusing on surviving professionally like most Hongkongers, Wai and Ling approach the challenge differently: Wai, awkward and unpopular, becomes obsessed with Mandarin learning, only to fail the qualification exam, lose her job, become mentally ill, and kill herself by inserting a drill into her head. Ling, cunning, knowing how to please superiors and colleagues, thinks she can tactfully dodge the challenge by deploying her social savviness. Yet, after the gory suicide of Wai, Ling sees herself haunted and mirrored by Wai's tragedy: things around her slowly become out of her control. What will she do to survive in a ruthless environment where the rules of survival are constantly being re-written?


Tongueless is a gripping literary thriller of profound social consciousness that incorporates elements of noir, psychological suspense, and horror. Its portrayal of the brutal realities that afflict its characters is unflinching, probing the characters’ complex psychological states. While Wai's suicide offers a Tarantino-esque visual effect, the eerie isolation Ling finds herself in reminds us of David Lynch movies. Although the novel was written prior to the 2019 Hong Kong protests, it presciently engages with important issues facing HK during this pivotal moment of shifting realities during which so much of the city's uniqueness—especially its language—is at risk of being erased.

About the author


Lau Yee-Wa's short story 'The Shark' won the prestigious HK Champion of the Awards for Creative Writing in Chinese in 2016. After working as an editor in a publishing house for five years, she transitioned into writing fiction and pursuing a career in education. Her debut novel Tongueless has been highly praised by acclaimed HK authors including Chan Ho-Kei and Dorothy Tse.

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