On Monday 3rd October, around twenty Creative Access interns and alumni came together for a book club hosted at the independent book shop and wine/coffee bar Bookbar.
Our pick for this month was Babel, a new novel from award-winning author Rebecca F. Kuang about the power of language, the machinations of 19th Century colonialism, and the price of resistance.
But what does this actually look like on the page? A culturally diverse group of students study translation in a fantastical tower in Oxford, begin understanding its roots to the British Empire, and wreak havoc before they can help themselves.
Over the course of an hour we took a deep dive into the book to share our thoughts, covering topics from which characters were well-drawn or sympathetic, how messy racial and nationalistic politics played out, and what exactly did we make of that ending.
Something that consistently came up was Kuang’s approach to altering reality. She writes about a fictional technology that uses silver and massively enriches the European powers. Silver bars are inscribed with the same word in two languages, creating a spell which might do anything from keeping food from going stale to locking a door. By making other languages a key part of the silver bars, Kuang presents cultural difference itself as something that can treated by empire as a material resource.
Many thanks to everyone who attended and HarperCollins for sponsoring the event!
The Creative Access book club is open to Creative Access trainees, those placed by us through the Kickstart scheme, and our alumni. We read soon-to-be or recently published books, always by authors from under-represented backgrounds.
If you’re a publisher who would like to nominate one of your upcoming books, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.