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A world not funny at all

I am not much of a hero worshipper, for Stephen Fry though, I could make an exception. I admire him as he is a gifted and interesting and imaginative writer, poet, filmmaker, actor and blogger. Everything he does is with dedication, humour, imagination and skill.

One of the amazing novels he wrote is Making History. Leo Zuckermann is a physicist obsessed (‘Obsession, not by Calvin Klein, but Obsession by Thomas Mann or Vladimir Nabokov’) with Hitler and his hatred of him. By accident he meets Michael Young, who just finished his thesis in history on the early years of Hitler. Zuckermann has developed a kind of a time machine. Together they work on a time-travel plan and They should know better but they rewrite history. The results are worse than the worst night-mare. Fry draws the reader into the story and suddenly you find yourself in a world not funny at all, on the contrary: scaring and confronting. And that is probably the reason why Fry dedicated this book to not only to persons but also to the present.

The style is captive and very amusing. The first chapter starts with Michael telling his story. He does it with a lot of self-deprecating remarks. He sometimes addresses directly to the reader as if the reader doubts his story-telling skills: “If you get me.” And: “It is my story and no one else’s…” Sometimes he decides to write in Hollywood screenplay format, because he thinks books are dead and there is only movies. And then he decides to use “the dull old prose, because that’s how it feels”.

To get an idea how the mind of Fry works and his humour is, have a look at the titles of book one, they all start with making. The titles of book two all start with history. It is just one of those details, which makes it typically Fry.

The endless imagination of Fry in combination with his detailed knowledge of history of the first half of the 20th century leads to a very rich novel, partly fiction, non-fiction and science-fiction. It changes the reader a bit. He learns to look at history from a different perspective. At the same time Fry obliges you to reflect on topical questions and subjects.

 

Welmoed Hoogvorst

In this series three reviewers write about their favorite books, recent or not so recent

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