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Or the Necessity of Violence: an Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution
R.F. Kuang
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Brief Description

An incendiary new novel from award-winning author R.F. Kuang about the power of language, the violence of colonialism, and the sacrifices of resistance.

R.F. Kuang's book 'Babel' was a New York Times bestseller w/c 11-09-2022.

Full Description

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

Oxford, 1836.

The city of dreaming spires.

It is the centre of all knowledge and progress in the world.

And at its centre is Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation. The tower from which all the power of the Empire flows.

Orphaned in Canton and brought to England by a mysterious guardian, Babel seemed like paradise to Robin Swift.

Until it became a prison...

But can a student stand against an empire?


'A masterpiece that resonates with power and knowledge. BABEL is a stark picture of the cruelty of empire, a distillation of dark academia, and a riveting blend of fantasy and historical fiction - a monumental achievement'
Samantha Shannon, bestselling author of THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

'A masterpiece. Through a meticulously researched and a wholly impressive deep dive into linguistics and the politics of language and translation, Kuang weaves a story that is part love-hate letter to academia, part scathing indictment of the colonial enterprise, and all fiery revolution'
Rebecca Roanhorse, NYT bestselling author of BLACK SUN

'BABEL has earned tremendous praise and deserves all of it. It's Philip Pullman's THE GOLDEN COMPASS by way of N.K. Jemisin's THE FIFTH SEASON: inventive and engaging, passionate and precise'

Author biography

Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and the Astounding Award-winning and the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy and the forthcoming Babel. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale.

Readers' comments

Without a doubt, this is a top book of mine. Babel explores issues of internal morality and the consequences of the systemic prejudices and criminalities set against them.

Using language and translation as a vessel, she excellently portrays the larger than life picture while also hauntingly ties it into very real historical circumstances.