Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

eBook, 560 pages

Published Aug. 22, 2022 by Harper Voyager.

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5 stars (2 reviews)

From award-winning author R. F. Kuang comes Babel, a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal retort to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell that grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of language and translation as the dominating tool of the British empire.

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

1828- Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel.

Babel is the world's center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver working—the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver bars—has made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empire’s quest for colonization.

For Robin, Oxford is …

2 editions

My favorite book of 2022

5 stars

Babel was my favorite book in 2022. It's technically a fantasy, because it's both alternate history in a world with magic, but it touches on so many real-world issues that it's an unusual fantasy. Babel takes places in the early 1800s and an elite group of translators can use silver bars to create magical enchantments that do all sorts of things: heal illness, help with construction projects, and so much more. The translators are trained at a special college at Oxford called the Babel (after the Tower of Babel). The story focuses on four students who are studying at the prestigious school. One young man is from China and one from India. The other two students are women, one from Haiti and one from England. Woven throughout the story of why they were chosen to study at Babel and what their experiences are like are issues of colonialism, racism, misogyny, …

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