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  • Published: 13 April 2021
  • ISBN: 9781787302303
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99


A stunningly ambitious and entertaining novel that gives us a counter-factual history of the modern world, from the author of the international bestseller HHhH.

c.1000 AD: Erik the Red's daughter heads south from Greenland
1492: Christopher Columbus does not discover America
1531: the Incas invade Europe

Civilisations is the world as we don't know it: set at different points in history it links stories about characters in different places and times, all hungry to explore and to acquire power.
Freydis is a woman warrior and leader of a band of Viking explorers setting out southwards. They meet local tribes, exchange skills, are taken prisoner, and get as far as Panama. But nobody ultimately knows what became of them....

Fast forward five hundred years to 1492 and we're reading the journals of Christopher Columbus, mid-Atlantic on his own famous voyage of exploration to The Americas, dreaming of gold and conquest. But he and his men are taken captive by Incas. Even as their sufferings increase his faith in his superiority, and in his mission, is unshaken.

Thirty years later, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, arrives in Europe in the ships stolen from Columbus. He finds a continent divided by religious and dynastic quarrels, the Spanish Inquisition, Luther's Reformation, capitalism, the miracle of the printing press, endless warmongering between the ruling monarchies, and constant threat from the Turks. But most of all he finds downtrodden populations ready for revolution. Fortunately, he has a recent bestseller as a guidebook to acquiring power - Machiavelli's The Prince. The stage is set for a Europe ruled by Incas and Aztecs, and for a great war that will change history forever.

Civilisations is nothing less than a strangely believable counter-factual history of the modern world, fizzing with ideas about colonisation, empire-building and the eternal human quest for domination. It is an electrifying novel by one of Europe's most exciting writers.

  • Published: 13 April 2021
  • ISBN: 9781787302303
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Laurent Binet

Laurent Binet lives and works in France. His first novel, HHhH, was an international bestseller which won the prestigious Prix Goncourt du premier roman, among other prizes.

Also by Laurent Binet

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Praise for Civilisations

Civilisations provides a whole series of what-ifs, concertinaing known facts in new and surprising ways

Literary Review

Binet's best book yet: the work of a major writer just hitting his stride. A delightful counterfactual novel. *****

Tim Smith-Laing, Daily Telegraph

Imagine that Christopher Columbus never made it back to Spain - and that the Incas weren't conquered by Spain but instead invaded Europe, replacing Christianity with sun worship....the distant tone enables some enjoyably tart humour about European mores as seen through Incan eyes

The Times

One of the most successful French writers of his generation... a wild romp of a book that turns history on its head


Characteristically ambitious, brilliant...Combining all the pleasure of a period romp with vital questions about our shared origin stories...a triumph


Tremendous fun.


[A] hugely entertaining counterfactual history of the making of the modern world... Binet has riotous, brainy fun in a rollicking story of the urge to power, which delights in turning received ideas upside down

Guardian, *Summer Reads of 2021*

A bold and thrilling experiment in counter-factual history from a masterful storyteller

Àngel Gurría-Quintana, Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2021*

Wonderfully inventive

Muriel Zagha, Times Literary Supplement, *Summer Reads of 2021*

A propulsive 'counter-factual' romp...both dizzying and fun

Claire Allfree, Metro, *Summer Reads of 2021*

[A] glorious counterfactual novel... Funny and profound, this is Binet's best novel yet

Daily Telegraph, *Summer Reads of 2021*

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