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Babel wins Nebula Novel of the Year

Woman with dark hair and fringe looking into the camera, turquoise background Rebecca Kuang’s (2019, MSc Contemporary Chinese Studies) novel Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution has won the Nebula Award for Best Book of the Year.

Set in 1828, Babel follows Robin Swift who when orphaned by cholera in Canton is brought to London where he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, preparing for the day he will enrol in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel. Babel is the world’s centre of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working, which has made the British Empire unparalleled in power.

In Babel, R.F. Kuang explores the power of language, the violence of colonialism and the sacrifices of resistance. Babel debuted at the first spot on The New York Times Best Seller list and won Blackwell’s Book of the Year for Fiction in 2022.

Kuang’s latest novel, Yellowfacewas published last month. Yellowface entered The Sunday Times Bestseller list in the top spot and also made The New York Times Best Seller list. The darkly humorous literary thriller explores ambition, greed and white privilege in the publishing industry.

Rebecca 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. 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.

You can buy an exclusive edition of Babel, Yellowface and The Poppy War trilogy at Waterstones. Find out more about Rebecca’s work on her website

Photo: John Packman

Published: 6 June 2023

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