Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

Harvard Book Store presents R.F. Kuang

August 24, 2022 @ 6:00 pm


August 24, 2022
6:00 pm
Event Category:


Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States


Harvard Book Store
(617) 661-1515

Poster for Harvard Book Store presents R.F. Kuang

Harvard Book Store Presents:

R.F. Kuang


Or the Necessity of Violence:
An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution

in conversation with LILY RUGO

Harvard Book Store welcomes R.F. KUANG—author of the award-winning fantasy series The Poppy War—for a discussion of her highly anticipated book Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution. She will be joined in conversation by LILY RUGO—one of the assistant managers at Harvard Book Store and the co-founder of the Boston ABG: Asian Book Group.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to re-introduce in-person programming this season. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Brattle Theatre events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the venue. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth. At venues where refreshments are served, attendees may briefly unmask when actively eating or drinking.
  • Attendance is capped so as to allow for some social distancing in the venue.

For the time being, we will not be holding author signings at these events, in order to limit close contact. When possible, we will have pre-signed books available for purchase on-site.


Each ticket includes one hardcover copy of Babel.

About Babel

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?

Praise for Babel

“A brilliant and often harrowing exploration of violence, etymology, colonialism, and the intersections that run between them. Babel is as profound as it is moving.” —Alexis Henderson, author of The Year of the Witching

“R.F. Kuang has written a masterpiece. Through a meticulously researched and a wholly impressive deep dive into linguistics and the politics of language and translation, Kuang weaves a story that is part love-hate letter to academia, part scathing indictment of the colonial enterprise, and all fiery revolution.” —Rebecca Roanhorse, New York Times bestselling author of Black Sun

Babel is a masterpiece. A stunningly brilliant exploration of identity, belonging, the cost of empire and revolution—and the true power of language. Kuang has written the book the world has been waiting for.” —Peng Shepherd, bestselling author of The Cartographers

Lily Rugo

Lily Rugo is one of the assistant managers at Harvard Book Store, and began working here in 2019. She’s from St. Louis, Missouri, moved to Boston for college, and ended up staying here. In January, she hosted Boston.com’s Book Club with author Jabari Asim. She’s also the co-founder of the Boston ABG: Asian Book Group (linktr.ee/bostonabg), a reading group for Asian and Asian American millennials in the area.


R.F. Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and the Astounding Award-winning and the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy and the forthcoming Babel. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale, where she studies diaspora, contemporary Chinese literature, and Asian American literature.