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

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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 Ba 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 of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel's research in foreign languages serves the Empire's quest to colonize everything it encounters. Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports 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? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down? Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.


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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 Ba 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 of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel's research in foreign languages serves the Empire's quest to colonize everything it encounters. Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports 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? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down? Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

30 review for Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    R.F. Kuang

    This is the most ambitious thing I've ever written. In a lot of ways, the Poppy War trilogy was my training wheels; I finished off the standard linear epic fantasy project, and now I get to do all the formal, stylistic, thematic experimentation that I want. It's a love letter and breakup letter to Oxford. It gnaws at questions that have bothered me since I started graduate school–chiefly the brokenness of academia, and the sacrifices that true change might require. It's all the gnarly, bizarre, This is the most ambitious thing I've ever written. In a lot of ways, the Poppy War trilogy was my training wheels; I finished off the standard linear epic fantasy project, and now I get to do all the formal, stylistic, thematic experimentation that I want. It's a love letter and breakup letter to Oxford. It gnaws at questions that have bothered me since I started graduate school–chiefly the brokenness of academia, and the sacrifices that true change might require. It's all the gnarly, bizarre, fascinating facets to linguistics, translation, and colonialism I've been studying over the past few years. I can't wait to share it all with you in 2022!!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    1) This book is going to single-handedly save the dark academia genre. I just know it. 2) I love how you can tell the author is an academic because the title sounds like something straight out of JSTOR lol

  3. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    wake up babe, new dark academia by RF Kuang that tackles colonialism and empire just dropped

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    Dark Academia by R.F. Kuang? Enough said!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    "BABEL is a dark academia set in 1830s Oxford that interrogates language, translation, and colonialism. It's THE SECRET HISTORY meets JONATHAN STRANGE, enhanced by a heady dose of violent decolonization." - R.F. Kuang i am actually quaking. and this is going to be everything. the title(s) alone makes me vibrate as a glass shattering frequency. decolonization, translations and languages, reinventing dark academia? we truly love it here SO MUCH! (beautiful art by cosmikbread) Blog | Instagram | You "BABEL is a dark academia set in 1830s Oxford that interrogates language, translation, and colonialism. It's THE SECRET HISTORY meets JONATHAN STRANGE, enhanced by a heady dose of violent decolonization." - R.F. Kuang i am actually quaking. and this is going to be everything. the title(s) alone makes me vibrate as a glass shattering frequency. decolonization, translations and languages, reinventing dark academia? we truly love it here SO MUCH! (beautiful art by cosmikbread) Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    worshipping at the altar of my overlord, author R.F. Kuang ——————— Too early for a review, but this was beyond what I was expecting. Will update later! worshipping at the altar of my overlord, author R.F. Kuang ——————— Too early for a review, but this was beyond what I was expecting. Will update later!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    I will read anything by my queen. aNYTHING. EVEN A SHOPPING LIST.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ✨ A ✨

    DARK ACADEMIA BY THE QUEEN RF KUANG???? I AM COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS 😭🙏🏽 BABEL is a dark academia set in 1830s Oxford that interrogates language, translation, and colonialism. It's THE SECRET HISTORY meets JONATHAN STRANGE, enhanced by a heady dose of violent decolonization. •Release Date: August 2022• DARK ACADEMIA BY THE QUEEN RF KUANG???? I AM COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS 😭🙏🏽 BABEL is a dark academia set in 1830s Oxford that interrogates language, translation, and colonialism. It's THE SECRET HISTORY meets JONATHAN STRANGE, enhanced by a heady dose of violent decolonization. •Release Date: August 2022•

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Tonks

    [Dec 24]: WE HAVE A COVER!!! I'M IN LOVE!! I NEED IT IN MY HANDS 😭 I'M SO EXCITED TO SEE THE US ONE TOO SOON HEHE _______________________________________ Do I know what this is about? Nope, not really. But Dark academia R.F. Kuang style? SIGN. ME. IN. After reading The Poppy War, I already know I'm gonna read anything this woman writes, so please welcome this book to my already long TBR. this book releases in summer of 2022 and I'm already excited!! help this is not good [Dec 24]: WE HAVE A COVER!!! I'M IN LOVE!! I NEED IT IN MY HANDS 😭 I'M SO EXCITED TO SEE THE US ONE TOO SOON HEHE _______________________________________ Do I know what this is about? Nope, not really. But Dark academia R.F. Kuang style? SIGN. ME. IN. After reading The Poppy War, I already know I'm gonna read anything this woman writes, so please welcome this book to my already long TBR. this book releases in summer of 2022 and I'm already excited!! help this is not good

  10. 5 out of 5

    zia

    everyday i wake up and thank the lord im living in the same time as rfk

  11. 5 out of 5

    Althea ☾

    i'm ready for dark acadamia: rf kaung version i will gladly read anything this woman releases... especially when it’s dark acadamia with themes of colonialism and revolution with a touch of The Secret History and tones of Jekyll & Hyde what an era to be alive i'm ready for dark acadamia: rf kaung version i will gladly read anything this woman releases... especially when it’s dark acadamia with themes of colonialism and revolution with a touch of The Secret History and tones of Jekyll & Hyde what an era to be alive

  12. 5 out of 5

    Layla

    I didn't even read the synopsis before adding this to my TBR at an unfathomable speed. I just saw that it was by R.F. Kuang and that was all I needed to know. I have never before in my life been more excited for emotional instability than I am now. I didn't even read the synopsis before adding this to my TBR at an unfathomable speed. I just saw that it was by R.F. Kuang and that was all I needed to know. I have never before in my life been more excited for emotional instability than I am now.

  13. 5 out of 5

    d

    what is joe biden’s plan to stop r.f. kuang from making these characters suffer

  14. 4 out of 5

    katie ❀

    rf kuang decolonizing dark academia is exactly what we need.... and i am not prepared in the slightest

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lia Carstairs

    another series by the the devil herself??? i'd be scared for my soul to break but kuang made sure of destroying it herself after the burning god's ending!😃🔫 help, im so excited another series by the the devil herself??? i'd be scared for my soul to break but kuang made sure of destroying it herself after the burning god's ending!😃🔫 help, im so excited

  16. 4 out of 5

    ✨ jami ✨

    THE TITLE.......R.F Kuang understands the dark academia assignment also Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire finally someone who understands this genre is supposed to be more than aesthetics and has a thematic purpose. IM SO EXCITED I JUST KNOW SHE'S HERE TO MAKE, BREAK AND SAVE THE GENRE THE TITLE.......R.F Kuang understands the dark academia assignment also Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire finally someone who understands this genre is supposed to be more than aesthetics and has a thematic purpose. IM SO EXCITED I JUST KNOW SHE'S HERE TO MAKE, BREAK AND SAVE THE GENRE

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richa

    *singing* ISN'T SHE LOVELY? 🎶 THE COVER IS HERE AND IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL. It seemed like a rift in the history way and knowing the theme, it FITS like a glove. Cannot wait to get my hands on this. ------------------------------------ A Dark Academia by Kuang? Say no more, I'm sold. *singing* ISN'T SHE LOVELY? 🎶 THE COVER IS HERE AND IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL. It seemed like a rift in the history way and knowing the theme, it FITS like a glove. Cannot wait to get my hands on this. ------------------------------------ A Dark Academia by Kuang? Say no more, I'm sold.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    happy birthday to me, august is now officially the month of dark academia releases in both 2021 and 2022 ✨ other notes: - the fact the title mimics those extensively long-winded book titles from the 18th century is just very attractive of kuang - 'the necessity of violence' is also just very attractive - I, personally, will be spending the next year trying to break into the harpervoyager offices happy birthday to me, august is now officially the month of dark academia releases in both 2021 and 2022 ✨ other notes: - the fact the title mimics those extensively long-winded book titles from the 18th century is just very attractive of kuang - 'the necessity of violence' is also just very attractive - I, personally, will be spending the next year trying to break into the harpervoyager offices

  19. 4 out of 5

    linn

    SCREAMS in dark academia

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    You can’t expect me to see a book with the words The Secret History in the blurb, and not immediately add it to my shelf.

  21. 4 out of 5

    solanne

    absolutely LOOSING it over this R.F. Kuang dark academia about linguistics & colonialism. next mental breakdown set for august 2022 :))

  22. 5 out of 5

    cherelle (aboltoutofthebook)

    i'm sorry, my favourite author of all time, ms rf kuang with a dark academia tackling colonialism?? i'm going to be hyperventilating for one year straight waiting for this, just watch. <3 i'm sorry, my favourite author of all time, ms rf kuang with a dark academia tackling colonialism?? i'm going to be hyperventilating for one year straight waiting for this, just watch. <3

  23. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    04.05.2021 all you need to say is "translation as a tool for colonisation" and all you need to be is "rf kuang", and then I'll dedicate all my time to think about these four characters till this book releases. 04.05.2021 all you need to say is "translation as a tool for colonisation" and all you need to be is "rf kuang", and then I'll dedicate all my time to think about these four characters till this book releases.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    This book is going to be EVERYTHING! "Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire." I mean if that isn't a flex....get it Rebecca. I'm here for all of it. But WHY do we have to wait so long??!! This book is going to be EVERYTHING! "Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire." I mean if that isn't a flex....get it Rebecca. I'm here for all of it. But WHY do we have to wait so long??!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yeganeh(Taylor's version)

    look at the cover, then the synopsis then the author and fight me if I'm not right about this assumptions: 1) we are going to be emotionally destroyed again 2) this will single-handedly save the entire dark academia vibe 3) according to R.F. Kuang herself, poppy war was her training wheel, and if that's the case, so I'm guessing this is the first version of car she made from those wheels(sorry for metaphoring lamely) 4) you will add this if you read poppy war. look at the cover, then the synopsis then the author and fight me if I'm not right about this assumptions: 1) we are going to be emotionally destroyed again 2) this will single-handedly save the entire dark academia vibe 3) according to R.F. Kuang herself, poppy war was her training wheel, and if that's the case, so I'm guessing this is the first version of car she made from those wheels(sorry for metaphoring lamely) 4) you will add this if you read poppy war.

  26. 4 out of 5

    elhyza

    update: both the us and uk covers are so stunning, its everything an rfk dark academia book deserves. desperately need it to be august already, its 8 months too far away. 05/04/21: shaking and crying in anticipation in hopes that this gives me a new brainrot because the tpw trilogy has been causing me breakdowns for the last six months...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maëlys

    "An act of translation is always an act of betrayal." i'm already gasping for air & thoroughly obsessed. obsessed with the title (shortened AND full), obsessed with this synopsis, obssessed that it's taking place in the 1830s, obsessed with the art. i truly can't wait for this and to see RF Kuang's take on dark academia & outlook on colonialism through language. can it be August 2022 already please!! Youtube ☆ Twitter "An act of translation is always an act of betrayal." i'm already gasping for air & thoroughly obsessed. obsessed with the title (shortened AND full), obsessed with this synopsis, obssessed that it's taking place in the 1830s, obsessed with the art. i truly can't wait for this and to see RF Kuang's take on dark academia & outlook on colonialism through language. can it be August 2022 already please!! Youtube ☆ Twitter

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hilly ♡

    Can you hear me scream

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nomadic Reader (Baba Yaga)

    *gasps in translator*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    THIS COVER OMG

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