Babel : Or the Necessity of Violence

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Instant #1New York TimesBestseller from the author of The Poppy War

Absolutely phenomenal. One of the most brilliant, razor-sharp books I’ve had the pleasure of reading that isn’t just an alternative fantastical history, but an interrogative one; one that grabs colonial history and the Industrial Revolution, turns it over, and shakes it out. — Shannon Chakraborty, bestselling author of The City of Brass

From award-winning author R.

F. Kuang comesBabel, a thematic response toThe Secret Historyand a tonal retort toJonathan Strange Mr. Norrellthat 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.


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 hell enroll in Oxford Universitys prestigious Royal Institute of Translationalso known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center for translation and, more importantly, magic. Silver workingthe art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation using enchanted silver barshas made the British unparalleled in power, as its knowledge serves the Empires 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?

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