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

English language

Published Dec. 23, 2022 by HarperCollins Publishers.

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5 stars (3 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.

  1. 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 …

7 editions

spoiler-free vague review + CWs for this book

5 stars

A long, heavy, beautifully written and very biting book about the ways in which colonialism coopts people and institutions, and the simultaneous difficulty and necessity of resisting that. Deeply and cleverly tied in with real 19th Century history of Britain and its empire, while also being a fantasy story with a very specific magic system that I enjoyed in itself.

I highly recommend this book, but it should also come with some content warnings: * Colonialism * Lots of depictions of racism * Abusive parenting * Abusive academia * Violence * Not afraid to kill important characters


Review of 'Babel : Or the Necessity of Violence' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A fantastically ambitious novel, drawing on the myth of Babel, the art of translation, and the exploitation of colonialism. Scratches itches for dark academia, secret societies, alternative history, and diverse historical fiction as well as having a unique and fascinating magic system.

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5 stars