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NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

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Language Lost, Humanity Divided: A Book Review of “Babel” by R. F. Kuang

“Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of Oxford Translators’ Revolution”, written by R. F. Kuang, is a 2022 New York bestseller-listed book that dives into the relationship between language and humanity. As I immersed myself in this book of historical fiction, I was overwhelmed by the author’s ability to skillfully weave a story that expresses just how powerful the art of communication is and what limitations are placed on it.

From the very beginning, the story revolves around the world of language and how we as citizens of the world are losing language’s beauty, root, and of course, its  proper use when communicating with others. Kuang is able to capture the struggle people face with regard to language and our relationship with each other regardless of ethnic backgrounds.

Within the pages of “Babel”, Kuang uses broad strokes to paint a vivid picture of society and our ability, or lack thereof, to maintain it. The author shows society is struggling to maintain some semblance of desire to maintain language or to grapple with the consequences of this linguistic nightmare.

The plot of the story starts with death, sickness, loss of one’s identity, and starting off in a new land. However, the main character is forced to become something he is not in the wake of helping an orphaned young man from the goodness of his heart. The storylines of each main character are explored and exposed in simple yet surprising ways. The sheer difference in culture and perspectives almost is a character of the book itself, giving context and meaning to much of the storylines.

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The characters within the pages of this novel become almost real and are at the very least relatable to you the reader. Kuang is skillful in developing characters so that the reader is able to embrace the realness of each of them. The cast of characters in Babel provides so much value to the story.  As you read through the story, you become entwined with the characters, especially with Robin Swift and his plight.

The story of what language’s worth is; war, invasion, brotherhood, the friendship of convenience and so much more makes this book a must-read. Take some time to enjoy “Babel” and become obsessed with a character who makes naivete look sweet. I recommend this book as a great escape from the everyday grind of life. The book is a definite 4.5 out of 5. 

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About the Contributor
Angie Ybarra
Angie Ybarra, Writer
Angela “Angie” Ybarra is a senior student enrolled in the Nontraditional Degree Program (NDP) at Northeastern Illinois University. She hopes to work as a grant writer to assist local nonprofit organizations that address the issues of gentrification within Chicago's NorthWest side and help them find funding for their work. Angie loves to give her audience the opportunity to formulate their own views by presenting the facts or points of interest with the hope to move her audience into action.  “Journalism is what maintains democracy.  It’s the force for progressive social change.”

----Andrew Vachss, Author 

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