Author Rebecca F. Kuang on 'Babel,' revolution and students as visionaries
"An act of translation is always an act of betrayal."
This idea, and the questions it inspires, are central to author Rebecca or RF Kuang’s 2022 novel, Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution.
As the title promises, the book also explores the nature of revolution and the "necessity of violence," in addition to those complex questions surrounding the art of translation.
This hour, we revisit our conversation with the author, which was focused on the award-winning book, during an event organized by local bookseller RJ Julia.
On the importance of student revolutions, Kuang reflects, "The student's weakness is precisely his allure. The fact that the student is so naïve and doesn't have the jadedness of somebody who's been through more; the fact that students are dreamers, that they are romantic idealists; that kind of hope, that kind of ability to imagine an alternate future is beautiful and it matters and I hope we keep seeing that."
- RF or Rebecca Kuang: Award-winning author of the Poppy War trilogy, Babel: An Arcane History, Yellowface, and Katabasis (forthcoming). 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.