Laurent Binet

Book - 2021

"An ambitious and highly entertaining novel of revisionist history by Laurent Binet, the author of the international bestseller HHhH"--

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Alternative histories
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2021.
Main Author
Laurent Binet (author)
Other Authors
Sam Taylor, 1970- (translator)
First American edition
Item Description
Originally published in French in 2019 by Éditions Grasset et Fasquelle, France, as Civilizations.
Physical Description
310 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

This translation of Binet's ambitious work imagines a fascinating alternate universe where colonialism turned out rather differently. Binet traces contact between Europe and the Americas from Norse travelers centuries before Columbus through Cervantes' sixteenth century adventures. In this imagining, Freydis, daughter of Erik the Red, encounters, teaches, and learns from a succession of Indigenous peoples as she and her entourage sail down the coast seeking to avoid punishment for crimes she committed. Through these visits, horses, iron working, and resistance to certain diseases are introduced. These tools aid the Taino in foiling Columbus' goals of enslaving their people and giving their land to Spain. Later, Incan forces, led by Atahualpa, take advantage of the civil and religious unrest of the time to conquer Spain. The novel is arranged in an unusual style, with the narrative told through supposed selections of historic sagas, chronicles, and letters. It is easy to picture this work as the readings for a history class in this mirrored world. Recommended for all fans of what-ifs in history.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Binet (The 7th Function of Language) executes a daring and often delightful counterfactual history of transatlantic conquest. Around the year 1000, Greenlanders and Vikings find their way to the Americas, landing in Cuba and Panama. Here, Binet drily recounts the voyages of Erik the Red, his daughter Freydis, and others who make such observations as, "Day and night were of a more equal length than in Greenland or Iceland." Later, fragments of Christopher Columbus's 1492 diary document his failed voyage, as his men are decimated and his plans to colonize the new world are laid to waste. Instead, Columbus informs the Inca, who have meanwhile been exploring to expand their empire, of another world across the ocean, prompting them to set sail in their own spirit of conquest. In the strongest section, Incan leader Atahualpa and his people conquer and scheme their way across Western Europe. The final section follows the exploits of the young Miguel de Cervantes in 16th-century Mexican-controlled Europe, after that tribe's transAtlantic battles with the Incas. Though some parts are less successful than others, this ingeniously configures a new framework of colonialism, with Mexico dominating the new world. Binet delights with his imaginative powers. (Sept.)

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