R.F. Kuang at the Brattle Theatre


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

in conversation with LILY RUGO

Please Note: This event is now sold out.


August 24, 2022
6:00 PM ET
(Doors at 5:30pm)


Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138


There will not be a standby line for this event.

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.

Please Note: This event is now sold out.

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

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
R. F. Kuang

R. F. Kuang

Rebecca F. Kuang is the #1 New York Times-bestselling, Astounding Award-winning and the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy and Babel. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. A Marshall Scholar and Chinese-English translator with 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.

Photo Credit: John Packman

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 10 minutes

As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and proceed along Brattle St. Follow Brattle St. as it curves to the right in Brattle Square (follow the sidewalk on the right side of the street). The Brattle will be on the left-hand side of the street. The building is shared with Algiers Cafe and Alden & Harlow Restaurant, and the theatre entrance is on the left side of the building—look for the sidewalk poster case and marquee.

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(617) 661-1515

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