A novel that took the Clarke Award against stiff competition, The Separation is an alternate history tale of twin brothers in WWII. one brother is a pilot, the other a conscientious objector.
It had a troubled route towards publication because “a young editor” about whom Priest is less than polite wanted to make the book into a “counterfactual” akin to robert harris’s Fatherland (1992). This entirely missed the point because Priest was more interested in why things turn out how they do than in why they might have turned out differently.
“I wanted to write about the process of history, the unfolding of events, my belief that there’s a kind of momentum and inevitability to events,” he says. “The robert harris counterfactual approach assumes the simplistic idea that hitler ‘won’ the war. To me that’s ridiculous and untenable: Nazi germany was vile and sustained by violence, but it was also corrupt and directed by a demagogue, hence fundamentally unstable and weak. If the Allies had not ‘won’ the war, Nazi germany would have collapsed anyway.”