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“IMHO, the best fantasy books give a reader new insights into our own world. Babel passed that test for me with its grounding in Britain's colonial history with an overlay of magic. I loved R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War trilogy, but this finely wrought novel surpasses it. Highly recommended.”Mike,
A Great Good Place for Books
“Finishing a book like this is equal parts pleasure and pain: pleasure in that reading something as striking and beautiful as this is everything a reader hopes to feel in a book juxtaposed by the pain of something beautiful ending and leaving these characters behind in the pages. There are few books that have brought tears to my eyes (I can still count them on one hand) but Kuang's Babel, or The Necessity of Violence is now numbered among them.”Maxwell,
“This is it. This is the magical school story that adults who grew up in the 90s and 00s have been hoping to find: one that incorporates a beautiful, erudite, delightfully post-steampunk world of magic, but that is ultimately about the hopes and the friendships of young people who came from outside the elite class, and whose lives have been shaped by their own intelligence and by the colonialism and capitalism that are ingrained in their magical world. What they decide to do with their gifts rings true, and while it is in some parts painful, it is nuanced, culturally aware, and finally inspiring. R. F. Kuang has confronted the demons of our generation's stories fearlessly. And Babel has, with wit and passion, driven back a little of the dark.”Nialle,
The Haunted Bookshop
“Finishing a book like this is equal parts pleasure and pain: pleasure in reading something so striking and beautiful juxtaposed by the pain of it ending. Few books have brought tears to my eyes; Kuang’s Babel is now numbered among them.”Maxwell Leaning,
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 a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge obeys power, and as a Chinese boy raised in Britain, Robin realizes serving Babel means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress, Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to stopping imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide…
Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence?
Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.