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Babel Review

Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: an Arcane History of Oxford Translators. It is a historical fantasy novel that is set in 1828. It touches on the themes of higher education, colonialism, sexism, and translations. ~There will be spoilers.


We are getting this story told by a boy named Robin Swift. He is a Chinese boy that was taken from his home because his mother dies. His guardian Professor Lovell takes him in and starts to teach him Latin and Greek so that way he can get into Oxford and study at Babel. They start off with Professor Lovell telling him that he needs to change his Chinese name because no one was going to be able to pronounce his name, ad that's how he got the name, Robin Swift. So we follow him as he studies to get into Babel. He gets there and he meets 3 people that become his friends Ramy, Victorie, and Letty. Robin, Ramy, and Victorie are all minorities so we see how this affects them being in oxford and how it affects their friendship with Letty. Letty and Victorie are women so that also plays a role in them having a hard time at Babel, but because Letty is not a minority she has it a lot easier than the rest of them. We see them in their day-to-day lives studying languages and learning about silver work.


“Babel, his friends, and Oxford– they had unlocked a part of him, a place of sunshine and belonging, that he never thought he’d feel again. The world felt less dark now.”


He ends up coming into a conflict to join a secret society called Hermes. They basically steal silver bars from babel to help the people that can not afford to keep up with the maintenance of these silver bars. The silver bars are what run the city and to use them you have to be able to translate. This is how Britain is making all of its money. You have to dream and think in the language that you are translating from otherwise the bars will not work. He ends up joining them and he goes back and forth on whether it is good for him to betray babel because it has provided many things for him and Griffin who he is helping in the society is not telling him how his helping them steal from Babel is making a difference in the world. He ends up leaving because he can no longer justify helping Hermes. He comes to find out that his friends are a part of society so he starts to help them again. Then they commit a crime and this is where Letty and her not getting how minorities are treated comes into play. We get the idea in our head that she understands and she helps her friends but then she betrays them. They have to start fighting against Babel. They end up going back and forth with if they should use violence or not. Trying to separate anger from violence, the betrayal from family and friends, help build this wonderful story. I have given this book 5stars.


“Power did not lie in the tip of a pen. Power did not work against its own interests. Power could only be brought to heel by acts of defiance it could not ignore. With brute, unflinching force. With violence.”



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