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

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
August 2022
21 hours 46 minutes
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.
Profile Avatar
Dykes J.

Such an amazing novel. R.F. Kuang is dazzling. This story resonates with sincerity and heartbreak. I absolutely love the rich tapestry of culture and linguistic gymnastics at play throughout the world she has shown us. The narration is above par ( there are a number of edited areas with the male narrator; however, top-notch otherwise). And a beautiful and weighty tome. I have the hard back print of this book and purchased the audio to help me with the French pronunciation. Highly recommended. Wonderful.

Profile Avatar
Ross H.

I’m literally so tired of books that hate and want to destroy one of the greatest civilizations to date. Wake me up when woke has run it’s course.

Profile Avatar
Hermione C.

Beautifully realised and detailed story with light but satisfying use of magic and wonderful writing on language, translation and culture. Gave me new perspectives on power, empire and privilege, not all of which I agreed with but all of which really challenged me and left me thinking for days. Parts of it are anachronistic and I wouldn't recommend if you are easily annoyed by 21st C attitudes applied to 19th C thinking, but it is fantasy, after all! Top class narration, as well, as I think the second narrator for the footnotes was a masterstroke....this is a rare case of the audio book doing things better than in print.

Profile Avatar
Alexandra H.

The book was very interesting, especially with all the etymological references.

Profile Avatar
Ranyana K.

A book between history and sience fiction and entirely up to date where values are concerned. Well written and narrated. Educational and entertaining. I am glad I chose it.

Profile Avatar
Breanna O.

Whoa! First of all R.F. Kuang basically wrote lectures in this book on the entomology of language. Super interesting however not a light read. Though this is fantasy, I feel that I can see how the underlying themes in the book can be extrapolated to current societal divides between the haves and have-nots, those of race, and gender. A narrative of those in power doing whatever they can to stay in power. Kind of Robin Hood-ian....if Robin Hood was a foreign-born academic.

Profile Avatar

Very insightful. Very smart. I enjoyed listening more than reading because of all the different languages referenced.

Profile Avatar

Worth reading

Profile Avatar
Molly S.


Profile Avatar

if i could give this masterpiece more than 5 stars i would. it’s one of the few books that, immediately upon finishing, i wanted to reread so i could annotate EXTENSIVELY. the narrators were also phenomenal and i’m glad i was listening along while reading so that i could fully experience the different languages sprinkled in throughout, especially the ones with non-roman characters.

Profile Avatar

My first RF Kuang and i enjoyed it!

Profile Avatar

A masterpiece!

Profile Avatar

The beginning was somewhat slow, but last part was definitely worth it. A world depiction is vivid and bright, and as a non-native English speaker I liked the main idea of magic being lost in translation very much.

1 book added to cart
View Cart