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

by R.F. Kuang

Rating: 5 (12 votes)

Tags: Set in United Kingdom Female author

Babel

Description:
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?

Reviews:

Read Around The World Challenge user profile avatar for Elena
(1 year ago)
27 Jan, 2023
1828. Robin Swift 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 enrol in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation—also known as Babel. Babel is the world's centre 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...
Read Around The World Challenge user profile avatar for Kerry
(2 days ago)
24 May, 2024
This was an utterly fascinating read for a language lover as myself. Every mention of language, translation, etymology, and everything else was there to keep me continuing through the book. While I wouldn't say the book was ever boring at any point, I did notice that somewhere after the halfway point I really couldn't put it down. Besides language, I thought the focus on race and the white man were very well done, especially during that time period. I resonated extremely hard with Robin's moral dilemma of selfishly surviving. I really had no idea where the end of the story was going to go, but as it loomed nearer it felt like there was only one trajectory. The amount of tragedy and despair packed into the last quarter was not something I came prepared for, but at the same time I'm not sure what else I expected. All in all, an incredible story to read through.

Add comment

More books from China

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Warcross Monkey King

More books from Read Around Asia Challenge

The Road of Lost Innocence The Travelling Cat Chronicles Bright