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Making History

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In Making History, Stephen Fry has bitten off a rather meaty chunk by tackling an at first deceptively simple premise: What if Hitler had never been born? An unquestionable improvement, one would reason--and so an earnest history grad student and an aging German physicist idealistically undertake to bring this about by preventing Adolf's conception. And with their success is launched a brave new world that is in some ways better than ours--but in most ways even worse. Fry's experiment in history makes for his most ambitious novel yet, and his most affecting. His first book to be set mostly in America, it is a thriller with a funny streak, a futuristic fantasy based on one of mankind's darkest realities. It is, in every sense, a story of our times

575 pages, Paperback

First published October 22, 1996

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About the author

Stephen Fry

267 books9,826 followers
Stephen John Fry is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing for stage, screen, television and radio he has contributed columns and articles for numerous newspapers and magazines, and has also written four successful novels and a series of memoirs.

See also Mrs. Stephen Fry as a pseudonym of the author.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 722 reviews
Profile Image for BrokenTune.
750 reviews202 followers
May 20, 2017
Can you have a mid-life crisis at twenty-four? Or is it just the usual crisis of adulthood, something I was going to have to get used to until I doddered into oblivion? For the past year, I realised, I had been suffering from this pain, this leaking of hot lead in my stomach. Every morning when I awoke and stared at the ceiling and listened to Jane’s gentle snoring it flooded my gut, a dark swell of recognition that here was another pissing day to be got through as me. How can you tell if that’s freakish or usual? No one ever says. The ceaselessly expanding Christian Societies in the university would tell you that it was a sign that you needed room for Christ in your life. That your ache was a vacuum in the soul. Yeah, right. Sure. It was the same void that drugs filled, I supposed. I had thought too that maybe this was what Jane was for. No, not what Jane was for, what Love was for. Then either I didn’t love Jane as I should or this was another blown theory. The longings of a creative spirit then? Maybe my soul craved expression in Art? But: can’t draw, can’t write, can’t sing, can’t play. Great. Where does that leave me? A kind of Salieri deal perhaps. Cursed with enough of divine fire to recognise it in others, but not enough to create anything myself. Aw, rats . . .

Even tho I love Stephen Fry's books (and pretty much everything else he shares with the world), Making History has been lingering on my kindle without even tempting me to start this. Why is that?

Well, I unfortunately was put of by the premise that promised time travel that would culminate in the prevention of Hitler, two subjects that really don't intrigue me at all.

When I started the book, the misgivings I had with the premise continued: I liked Fry's writing but I still couldn't get to grips with reading what was in part a biography of Hitler, which, well, I had not planned on ever reading. I even found myself skimming some of those parts. It was written really well, but not something I would have engaged with if it had been by any other author.

However, I knew enough about Stephen Fry to be intrigued as to how he would handle the subject and how he would tie up the various parallel story lines.

And of course the second story line about a history student who has just submitted his PhD thesis, was quirky enough and contained all the good parts, the parts where Fry questions things like the relationship between science and art, and how society attributes more importance to one rather than the other.

But then, at about the half-way point, two things happened:

For one, I realised how unusual it is to read a WWI account (even tho fiction) from a German perspective. What is more, Fry did this rather well and without resorting to a lot of stereotyping or using cliches.

The second change was that the story suddenly changed a gear when the two plots crossed, and when we get to read Fry's conjectured alternate reality, which is not as, erm, peachy as the simple solution erasing Hitler's existence from the 20th century may seem.

The second half of the book had me gripped. If I had not arranged to meet with a friend for lunch, I would have read this book straight through all morning.

What I loved about Fry's story is that he did not rely on a naive plot, but actually put a lot of thought into his conjectures, where one change effects so many things that outcomes are not predictable. And, yet, despite the sensitive subjects that Fry brought up, there is an overarching tone of hope for humankind, even if the book focuses on the balance between the good and the bad that comes with every action.

I absolutely loved it.

Unfortunately, this is the last of Fry's novels that I hadn't read, yet, so I can only hope that he will at some point write another one. I love his other books (the non-fiction ones), but his fiction work is rather special to me.
3 reviews
February 21, 2009
The book started well enough, young chap at Cambridge (Fry's alma mater) immersed in the history of Hitler, working towards spending his life at Cambridge in a paid capacity, is having a tough time with his hard-nosed scientist girlfriend who finally leaves him (I found her more interesting than our hero, stronger, and more capable of carrying a story, and was sorry to see her go). Young man makes a hash of his thesis, dissertation, whatever, by being way too inventive for historical research, but bumps (literally) into a physics prof. who catches sight of his subject matter, becomes very excited, and shows our young hero why. For his own reasons, he too is obsessed with Hitler and is working on a way to change the course of history, basically to assuage his own familial guilt. With the young man's detailed knowledge of Hitler's early life, the physics professor's project becomes much easier. And so these two set about making sure Hitler is never born. Fry's idea is that mass events will happen no matter who, or who is not, there...they will simply be somewhat different. Therefore, even without Hitler, the basic impulse of the time is achieved through a different cast of characters. Only worse. That was interesting, interesting enough to keep going with the story. The writing was a bit clever-clever, but not too clever, actually I expected more from such a celebrated wit (no Oscar Wilde here)...and towards the end became rather sophomoric, as did Fry's completely unnecessary descent into an alternative love story way out of character for our young hero, even understanding that he too changed when the world changed. It wasn't necessary for the story, just seemed sort of stuck on as an amusement/fantasy for Fry. In fact, the last fifty pages were juvenile and rushed. In the hands of deeper thinker and a better sci-fi writer, this might have been very good. But it petered out along the way as Fry's grasp of his material also petered out. He really didn't know what to do with everyone when they'd achieved their goal, so thrashed his way out in a very unlikely comic book fashion.

Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,256 followers
March 3, 2018
So you invent a time machine, and what’s the first thing you do? You go back in time and kill Hitler, of course! Except you can’t (TVTropes), because either it doesn’t work or it screws up the timeline even more. Thus resolving one of the burning questions surrounding time travel: if it’s possible, why do we still have Hitler? Stephen Fry tackles this in a best-of-all-possible worlds way in Making History, where his protagonist succeeds in averting Hitler’s birth only for someone more charismatic and cunning to rise to power in his place.

I didn’t like this novel at first. I’m a fan of Fry as a TV personality, but the opening pages of Making History didn’t endear themselves to me. Michael Young is such an unsympathetic character. But he kind of needs to be a jerk. One requires a certain level of hubris to think that one should be responsible for changing history, and Michael certainly has that. Of course, a story where one kills Hitler with no unintended consequences would be boring. So things go wrong, and that’s where it gets really interesting.

When reality adjusts to Hitler’s absence, Michael finds himself not in Cambridge but Princeton, where he is supposed have an American accent. But with Hitler out of the picture, a more charismatic German rose to power. He reins in the anti-semitism, and as a result, Germany develops the atomic bomb first. World War II doesn’t happen, and America exists in a tenuous state of non-aggression with a Fascist/Communist Europe. In many respects this world seems more advanced—it’s 1996 and everyone has mobile phones and tablets—but culturally, civil liberties didn’t happen. Racism and homophobia are normal; a climate of McCarthyism is the country’s response to Germany’s power. And the Jews? Well, in Europe, they got shuffled into a supposed “free state” but haven’t been heard from since.

Making History is a fantastic example of alternate history. I particularly enjoyed how Fry shows the same scene, set during World War I, twice, once from the original timeline and once from the timeline after Michael erases Hitler. It’s an “oh shit” moment as the reader realizes the magnitude of what Michael has done. It’s a foregone conclusion that the new world is going to be somehow less preferable to the old one, but it’s not immediately obvious how that’s the case. Fry reveals more about the new timeline gradually, giving the reader time to acclimatize alongside Michael, who must pretend like everything is cool to throw off some suspicious G-men even while he secretly freaks out and wants to find a way to restore the original timeline.

This is a subject understandably close to Fry’s heart, because he has family who died at Auschwitz. And the Holocaust in any light is a serious subject. So it seems like it would be difficult to poke fun at it … and Fry doesn’t try. The humour in Making History is entirely at Michael’s expense (another reason he is an unlikable protagonist). On one level, the narrative just seems to take umbrage at Michael’s ego and conviction that he can make history better. It mocks him for believing that merely removing Hitler from the picture will somehow defuse the anti-semitism and fascist ideologies throughout Europe in the early twentieth century. Fry makes a serious point here, in that often the vilification of Hitler seems to eclipse the more important underlying issues. But he does it with a lighthearted, humorous tone with regards to Michael’s actions and feelings.

The way that Fry balances the serious nature of the subject with his trademark wit is the most stunning aspect of Making History, and the most rewarding. This is far more than just another what-if story of counterfactual fiction: it moves both through pathos and humour. I wanted to strangle Michael sometimes, but by the end I was starting to sympathize with him. And while he’s still a jerk at the end of the story, he has definitely changed and learned from his rather major mistakes. In this way Fry reaffirms what is most important: the close, personal relationship between two human beings, and the reminder that we are responsible for making a better world.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Thomas Stroemquist.
1,479 reviews121 followers
April 25, 2023
Probably my favorite fiction book by the wonderful Stephen Fry - when you have read his autobiography, my suggestion is to go for this one! The story, obviously, is about the changing of history and the consequences thereof. Wonderful, live and likeable characters (and some not likeable at all, of course) and has all the trademark Fry: English humor, wit, and beautiful language. At no point in this book this feels overdone, but I felt that he hit just the tone and pace here. The outcome of the meddling is very close to my first guess and I liked very much that he arrived there. The 'fix' is also a logical one, but does offer some surprises along the way. This was, even though it's a bit long, a smooth and not easily paused read and one that I recommend very much.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,067 reviews1,085 followers
April 11, 2018
This was clearly not a success for me. Especially the literary level was very low: weakly portraited, one-dimensional characters, an occasional exciting moment but a lot of very boring moments, especially in the passages that have been written as a film script, and a really really dull final. The only interesting approach is that Fry tries to imagine what the consequences would be of attempts to change history, but even that is poorly executed. As a novel this does not exceed the level of cheap science fiction, suitable to read on the beach.
Profile Image for Boudewijn.
647 reviews80 followers
January 8, 2023
Michael Young meets a physicist who, Michael soon learns, has built a time machine. The two men devise a plan to make it so that Adolf Hitler is never born. What follows is a glimpse into a universe where Hitler never happened.

Stephen Fry's working is admittedly engaging and smart and, not least of all, funny, but somehow Fry's famous wit does not work in this work of fiction. It was a disappointment and perhaps I should stick to his non-fiction work from now on.
Profile Image for Viir.
109 reviews9 followers
March 25, 2018
More like 3.5 stars but whatever.

The story follows Michael D. Young, a 24 year old guy who is supposed to turn in his thesis to achieve his doctorate. He lives with his girlfriend Jane, who is a very clever ambitious Chemist (I think, idk anymore) and both of them are so different that this relationship isn't good for any of them. The thesis Michael writes focuses on Adolf Hitler and his mother but (because he is dumb, I can't find another reason for such a bad thesis) he writes it in prose. Like it's a fucking novel and not a scientific paper. What.The.Hell.Dude.

So obviously the professor who is in charge for his thesis isn't too thrilled and wants him to rewrite his shit. And somewhere here Michael meets another professor, Leo Zuckerberg who somehow was able to build a machine that allows him to look at Auschwitz in 1944 (again I think that was the year, I really don't want to check again). At this point they just look at it...but what would happen if they could actually do something that would prevent Hitler from doing the horror we all learnt about at school?

So the story unfolds there.

The book switches between chapters focusing on the "present", 1994 with struggling Michael and his life, and the past where we get to know Adolf Hitlers mother, her abuse by Alois and so on. Then we also get chapters about how Hitler was working in the first world war, the people that served in the war etc. It switches to another character from the time, but I don't want to give anything away.

I really liked the history point in this book, I liked the time travel thing. But the writing style is sth you have to get used to, what took me like 200 pages. After that I was thrilled to continue reading. One major negative point is that after going on and on about history the story evolves to become a fucking love story that no one needs and no one (or maybe just me) asked for. But whatever. It is what it is. The love story wasn't even nicely written, just thrown out there. I'm annoyed.

STILL I recommend reading it, go ahead have fun.
Profile Image for Tony.
485 reviews37 followers
July 22, 2019
I tried, I really did. I love Mr Fry but this was flat as a pancake, two dimensional in every respect. The first couple of chapters were like a flashback to some trip in my twenties, an acid burn. By the time it had pulled itself into something that aligned with my attention span, my attention had got up and gone out for a drink.

I followed it, leaving the book behind.

Sorry, I know that a great deal have really rated this, but for me it didn't mesh.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,191 reviews110 followers
June 5, 2015
Thoroughly good book. The idea this book is based on is nothing new, people have discussed this many times, but this is the first time I have seen the idea written down.

It has been very well done, the different writing styles used keep you entertained. Michael and Leo are very good characters and some of their dialogue had me in stitches.

The first book I have read by Mr Fry, I will be back to read some more.
Profile Image for Mosharraf Hossain.
Author 6 books55 followers
August 18, 2017
স্টিফেন ফ্রাই একজন বহুরূপী। তিনি একাধারে একজন কমেডিয়ান, লেখক, অভিনেতা, উপন্যাসিক, কবি, কলামিস্ট, চলচ্চিত্র পরিচালক, টেলিভিশন ব্যক্তিত্ব এবং প্রযুক্তি বিশেষজ্ঞ। “ব্লাকএডার” “ওয়াল্ডি”-র মত জনপ্রিয় সিটকমে যেমন অভিনয় করেছেন তেমনি অভিনয় করেছেন “ভি ফর ভেন্ডেটা”-র মত সফল চলচ্চিত্রে এবং লিখেছেন অসংখ্য জনপ্রিয় বই। ফ্রাইয়ের অসংখ্য বইয়ের মধ্যে প্রথম পড়ার সুযোগ হল অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি জনরার “মেকিং হিস্ট্রি”।

অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি রচনা করতে হয় ইতিহাসের পরিচিত এক বা একাধিক ঘটনাকে ভিন্ন ভাবে উপস্থাপন করে। যদি ইতিহাসের "এই ঘটনা"-টা "এমন" না হতো তাহলে কী হতো? ঘটনাটা "এমন" না হয়ে কী হতে পারত? সেই ভিন্ন রকম হওয়াটা কিভাবে হতো আর তার পরবর্তী ঘটনাপ্রবাহই অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির প্রধান রেসিপি। অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রিকে বলা চলে হিস্টোরিক্যাল ফিকশনের সাব জনরা, কিছু কিছু ক্ষেত্রে সায়েন্স ফিকশনের সাব জনরাও বলা হয়। সাধারণত টাইম ট্রাভেল করে ঐতিহাসিক কোন ঘটনাকে পালটানো হয় বলে জনরা হিসেবে সায়েন্স ফিকশনের নাম আসলেও টাইম ট্রাভেল করাটা অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির বাধ্যতামূলক কোন অনুষঙ্গ নয়।

অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি প্রচন্ড রকম জনপ্রিয় ইউরোপে, বিশেষ করে পশ্চিম ইউরোপে। এই জনরার সবচেয়ে বেশি বই প্রকাশিত হয় স্প্যানিশ, পর্তুগিজ, জার্মান, কাতালুনিয়া (বার্সেলোনা, স্পেন) ভাষায় এবং সেখানে এই জনরাটা পরিচিত আখ্রনি নামে, সেখান থেকেই ইংরেজি শব্দ আখ্রনিয়া (Uchronia)র আবির্ভাব; এবং বর্তমানে শুধু অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি বইয়ের তালিকা রাখার জন্য আখ্রনিয়া ডট নেট নামে একটা ওয়েবসাইট আছে।

অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রিতে অবশ্যই ইতিহাসের কোন একটা ঘটনা যেভাবে ঘটেছিলো সেভাবে ঘটতে না দিয়ে ভিন্ন কোন রূপে ফুটিয়ে তুলতে হবে এবং একইসাথে তার পরবর্তী ঘটনাপ্রবাহ কিভাবে এগোল সেটার বর্ণনা থাকতে হবে। আবার ভবিষ্যৎ ফুটিয়ে তোলা হয়েছে এমন কোন সাহিত্য যেটা সময়ের হিসেবে এখন আবার অতীত হয়ে গিয়েছে সেটাকে অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির অন্তর্ভুক্ত করা যাবে না। জর্জ অরওয়েলের “নাইন-টিন এইটি ফোর” বা আর্থার সি ক্লার্কের “২০০১ এ স্পেস অডিসি” লিখা হয়েছিল ভবিষ্যতের কাহিনী হিসেবে, সময়ের বিচারে কাহিনীর সময়কাল (১৯৮৪ / ২০০১) এখন অতীত হলেও যেহেতু তারা তাদের পরিচিত কোন অতীতকে পাল্টানোর চেষ্টা করেননি কাজেই এরা অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির অন্তর্ভুক্ত নয়।

অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির সবচেয়ে বেশি ব্যবহৃত প্লট হচ্ছে সিভিল ওয়ারে কনফেডারেট আর্মিকে জয়ী হিসেবে দেখানো এবং ২য় বিশ্বযুদ্ধে নাজী বাহিনীর হাতে জয় তুলে দেয়া। ইউরোপে জনপ্রিয় এই জনরা আমাদের বাংলা সাহিত্যে বা বাংলাদেশে মোটেও জনপ্রিয় নয় এবং এখন পর্যন্ত অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির কোন বাংলা বই চোখে পড়েনি। আমাদের দেশের সাহিত্যিকরা অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি লিখলে সেটার প্লট কি রকম হতে পারে?

১। দেশভাগের সময় ভারতীয় উপমহাদেশ ভাগ না হয়ে ইংরেজদের হটিয়ে দিয়ে এখনো মোঘল সাম্রাজ্য হিসেবে টিকে আছে।
২। দেশভাগের সময় বাংলাদেশের সাথে বাংলা ভাষাভাষী পশ্চিমবঙ্গ এবং সেই সাথে বাংলাদেশের উত্তর এবং পশ্চিমের মেঘালয়, আসাম, মনিপুর, মিজোরাম, ত্রিপুরা, নাগা-ল্যান্ড, অরুণাচল নিয়ে বড় ভূখণ্ডের বাংলাদেশ গঠন, যার সাথে রয়েছে নেপাল, ভুটান এবং চীনের সীমান্ত এবং তার পরবর্তী রাজনৈতিক এবং ভৌগলিক অবস্থা।
৩। পশ্চিম পাকিস্তানের অধীনে বাংলাদেশ না হয়ে পশ্চিম পাকিস্তানকে বাংলাদেশের অধীনে রেখে দেশভাগ।

কিংবা স্বাধীনতা পরবর্তী সময়ে,
১। ১৯৭৩ সালের নির্বাচনী জয়ী আওয়ামী লীগের রাষ্ট্রপতি হিসেবে শেখ মুজিবুর রহমান এবং প্রধানমন্ত্রী হিসেবে তাজউদ্দীন আহমেদের শপথ গ্রহণ এবং তার পরবর্তী সময়কাল।
২। ১৯৭৫ এর নভেম্বরে খালেদ মোশাররফের ক্ষমতা দখল এবং ক্ষমতায় অবস্থান।
৩। সিপাহী বিপ্লবে রাষ্ট্রনায়ক হিসেবে কর্নেল তাহেরের উত্থান এবং ক্ষমতায় আসীন।

অলটারনেট হিস্ট্রির প্রথম ভাগে থাকে ইতিহাসের নিখাদ সত্য, ২য় ভাগে লেখক ছুটিয়ে দেন তার কল্পনার ঘোড়াকে; দিনশেষে তাই অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি কোন হিস্ট্রি / হিস্টরিক্যাল ফিকশন/ নন-ফিকশন নয়, শুধুই ফিকশন। ক্রমশ জনপ্রিয় হয়ে উঠা এই জনরায় হয়তো আমাদের এখানেও কেউ সাহিত্য রচনা শুরু করবে।

অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি সম্পর্কে কিছু জানার আগেই এই জনরার বই পড়া হয়েছিল মার্ক টোয়েনের “এ কানেক্টিকাট ইয়াংকি ইন কিং আর্থার কোর্ট”, জানার পর পড়া হল “মেকিং হিস্ট্রি”। উপন্যাসের শুরু হয় প্রধান চরিত্র মাইকেল ইয়াং নামক ইতিহাসের এক ছাত্রের ক্যামব্রিজে তার ডক্টরেট থিসিস জমা দেবার দিন থেকে। তার থিসিসের বিষয় ছিল এডল্ফ হিটলারের শৈশব এবং নেতা হিসেবে তার উত্থান। থিসিস জমা দেবার দিনেই ইয়াংয়ের গার্ল-ফ্রেন্ড তাকে ছেড়ে চলে যায়, জমা দেয়া থিসিসকে আবর্জনা বলে প্রফেসর ছুড়ে ফেলে দেন।

উপন্যাসের ২য় প্রধান চরিত্র টাইম মেশিন আবিষ্কার করা পদার্থবিদ লিও জুকারম্যান, ইহুদী না হয়েও যে ইহুদী পরিচয়ে পরিচিত। জুকারম্যানের বাবা ছিল হিটলারের নাজী বাহিনীর অন্তর্ভুক্ত ডাক্তার। ইহুদীদের উপর অত্যাচারের পদ্ধতি এবং উপকরণ স্বেচ্ছায় না হলেও অনেকগুলোই তার আবিষ্কার এবং যুদ্ধ শেষে ঘটনাচক্রে লিও এবং তার মা নিজেদের পরিচয় দিতে শুরু করে ইহুদী বলে।

উপন্যাসে ইয়াং এবং লিও-র কাহিনী যখন আগাচ্ছিল তখন অল্টারনেট চ্যাপ্টারে আগাচ্ছিল ১৮৮০র দশকে অষ্ট্রিয়ার এক পরিবারের কাহিনী। আলই্স এবং ক্লারার সংসার, আলই্সের আগের সংসারের পুত্র কন্যা, ক্লারার সন্তানদের জন্ম নেবার সময় কিংবা জন্ম নেবার কিছুদিন পর বা গর্ভাবস্থাতেই মৃত্যুবরণ। অবশেষে ক্লারা কোল জুড়ে আসা ছেলে ডলফি অসময়ে মৃত্যু বরণ না করে হাসি ফুটায় মায়ের মুখে। সেই ছেলে ধীরে ধীরে বড় হতে থাকে, আলই্স তার পরিবার নিয়ে অষ্ট্রিয়া ছেড়ে চলে আসে জার্মানিতে এবং একসময় সেই ছেলে পরিণত হয় এডল্ফ হিটলারে।

অন্যদিকে, বর্তমান সময়ে ইয়াংয়ের সাথে পরিচয় হয় লিওর। দুইজন মিলে সিদ্ধান্ত নেয় সুন্দর একটা বর্তমানের জন্য অতীতের সামান্য রদবদল করতে হবে, ইতিহাস থেকে ম���ছে ফেলতে হবে হিটলারকে। কিন্তু দুইজনের কেউ খুন, ধ্বংস, রক্তারক্তিতে রাজি নয়, তারা বেছে নেয় ভিন্ন এক পথ। হিটলারের জন্মের আগে গিয়ে তারা হিটলারের বাবা আলই্স হিটলারকে খাইয়ে দেয় প্রজনন ক্ষমতা ধ্বংসকারী ট্যাবলেট এবং প্রজনন ক্ষমতা হারানো বাবার ঔরসে জন্ম নিতে না পেরে পৃথিবী মুক্ত হয় এডল্ফ হিটলার নামক এক অভিশাপ থেকে।

হিটলার মুক্ত অতীতের বর্তমানে জেগে উঠে ইয়াং; এবং ভুল করতে থাকে পদে ���দে। ইয়াং জেগে উঠে তার বর্তমানের পূর্ণ স্মৃতি নিয়ে, কিন্তু সেই ১৮৯০ সালে হিটলারের জন্ম নেয়া থেকে পৃথিবী চলেছে এক ভিন্ন পথে, হিটলারের পৃথিবীতে পরিবর্তনের যেই ধারায় এসে ইয়াং ঘুমিয়েছিল, ইয়াং জেগে উঠে বর্তমানের ভিন্ন একটা ধারায় যেখানে হিটলার নেই এবং এই পরিবর্তনের ধারা চলমান গত ১০০ বছরেরও বেশি সময় ধরে। ইয়াং ভুল করে প্রতিটি পদক্ষেপে, লোক হাসায়, বিরূপ পরিস্থিতির সৃষ্টি করে। ইতিহাসের বই ঘেঁটে ইয়াং দেখতে পায় ইতিহাসে হিটলার বলে কেউ ছিল না, তবে তার চেয়েও ভয়াবহ ঘটনা ঘটে গিয়েছে। হিটলারের জন্ম না হলেও নাজি বাহিনীর ক্ষমত�� দখল করেছিল রুডল্ফ গ্লডার নামক জনপ্রিয় এক রাষ্ট্রনেতা এবং পৃথিবী ব্যাপী চালিয়েছে ধ্বংসের তাণ্ডবলীলা। মজার ব্যাপার পৃথিবীকে ইহুদী মুক্ত করার জন্য সে ব্যবহার করে প্রজনন ক্ষমতা ধ্বংসকারী সেই পিল, যেটা ইয়ং ব্যবহার করেছিল হিটলারের বাবার উপর। নিজেদের ভুল বুঝতে পেরে ইয়াং এবং লিও সিদ্ধান্ত নেয় আবার অতীতে ফিরে গিয়ে নিজেদের ভুলের প্রায়শ্চিত্ত করার। ফ্রাইয়ের ভাষায়, “to make the world a better place by ensuring that Adolf Hitler lived and prospered”...

বইয়ের চমৎকার একটা দিক ছিল এক রৈখিক ভাবে শুধুমাত্র হিটলারের অনুপস্থিতি এবং গ্লডারের উপস্থিতির দিকে নজর না দিয়ে পারিপার্শ্বিক সবকিছুকে আতস কাঁচের নিচে ফেলে পরিবর্তনের মধ্য দিয়ে দেখাটা। রক ব্যান্ড ওয়েসিস কে নিয়ে জোকস, বিশ্বখ্যাত ব্যান্ড বিটলসের জন্ম না নেয়া, “কাসাব্লাঙ্কা”, “দ্য থার্ড ম্যান”-এর মতো মুভিগুলোর নির্মাণ না হওয়া, সমকামীদের তুলনামূলক অবস্থান, বৈশ্বিক ক্ষমতার হস্তান্তর থেকে শুরু করে আমেরিকান এবং ইংল্যান্ডের গালি গালাজের তুলনা পর্যন্ত অনেক কিছু। বিস্ময়কর রকমের উপভোগ্য ছিল দুই খণ্ডে বিভক্ত বইয়ের প্রথম খণ্ডে হিটলারের অধীনে বিশ্বযুদ্ধের একটা খণ্ডিত অংশের বর্ণনা, ২য় খণ্ডে সেই একি যুদ্ধের একি সময়ের বর্ণনা লেখক আবারো দেন, তবে এবার হিটলারের অনুপস্থিতিতে - গ্লডারের অধীনে। অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রির অন্যতম অনুষঙ্গ টাইম ট্রাভেল হলেও টাইম মেশিন কিভাবে কাজ করে সেই টেকনিক্যাল কচকচানিতে বিস্তারিত না গিয়ে অল্প কয়েক পৃষ্ঠার মধ্যেই লেখকের টাইম মেশিনের কাজ শেষ করে দেয়াটাও ছিল স্বস্তিকর।

স্টিফেন ফ্রাইয়ের বর্ণনা রীতি চমৎকার, পুরো বই জুড়েই একটা রম্য আবহ থাকলেও বিশ্বযুদ্ধ, হিটলার, নাজি বাহিনীর ধ্বংসযজ্ঞ বর্ণনা করতে গিয়ে স্বজন হারানোদের প্রতি কোথাও অবহেলা বা অসম্মান করা হয়নি। কিছু কিছু জায়গায় মনে হয়েছে হাস্যকর কিছু একটা হয়েছে কিন্তু ধরতে পারিনি। ডার্ক কমেডিগুলোর সাথে সময়কাল, স্থান, স্থানীয় ট্যাবু উতপ্রোত ভাবে জড়িয়ে থাকে বলেই ভিন্ন পরিবেশ এবং সংস্কৃতির কারো পক্ষে হুট করে ধরা ফেলাটা কঠিন। আর কঠিন বলেই এই কমেডি গুলো ধরতে না পারাতে খুব বেশি আফসোস নেই। “মেকিং হিস্ট্রি” নিঃসন্দেহে অল্টারনেট হিস্ট্রি এবং ইংলিশ হিউমারের এক চমৎকার মিশেল। লেখকের হিউমারের প্রশংসা করতেই হয় এবং তার আরো কিছু বই পড়ার আশা রাখি...
Profile Image for Laura ☾.
818 reviews270 followers
June 30, 2021
What if you could go back in time and prevent Hitler from ever being born? In Making History, an ambitious History PHD student at Cambridge, along with a physicist, try to do exactly that.

Making History is an entirely ambitious book, and while it was entertaining, it did have some pacing issues at the beginning particularly. However, I do feel like Fry's wit and sense of humour largely made up for that!
Profile Image for Eleanor.
510 reviews49 followers
March 28, 2018
This was a great disappointment. The best part of the book was the alternate world that Fry imagined, with a very different outcome to the Second World War from the one we know.

I found the protagonist incredibly irritating, though I was presumably supposed to find him charming. For someone who is a PhD candidate in history at Cambridge University, his inability to see that removing Hitler from the picture would not change the disastrous situation in Germany after the First World War, and that of course some other leader would emerge, was frankly unbelievable, despite his immaturity. Had he learned nothing from several years of reading history?

Other irritations included the way the story occasionally turns into a film script, and the way that in the sections dealing with Germans, the English text is larded with German words. This makes as much sense as the old films where Germans (or other nationalities) spoke to each other in English with heavy accents so that we would know they were really speaking in German or French or whatever.

Barely two stars, one being for the alternate outcome for Europe that Fry imagined and described well and succinctly.

Profile Image for Shelley.
2,276 reviews147 followers
August 27, 2007
Slow to get started, but once the set up ended (around page 150), it got completely awesome and very interesting. Michael and Leo try to fix the world by making it so that Hitler was never born, except the world that results is even worse.

I loved the glimpses of the technology in the alternate world. I think the premise that the world ends up in a perpetual state of the 1950s is fascinating. I liked how Michael and Steve's relationship evolved, although I'd have liked to see a bit more of it. It was really just all around cool and fun and interesting. Well worth the $5 I paid for it on Amazon marketplace. *g*
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews873 followers
March 19, 2008
When someone as talented, witty, and educated as Stephen Fry writes a book, you half-expect brilliance on every page. While his genius was clearly in evidence, it was only every other page or so where it struck me--still a helluva good rate.

Fry did not lack for ambition. But it was always going to be difficult to display humor, humanity, romance, and imagination when the fate of the whole continent's Jewish population was at stake. The book asks whither a world without Hitler. Fry's treatment and tone in response compels me to invent a new, compound German word (if it doesn't exist already):


translated roughly as "mismatched light seriousness." Despite Fry's light touch, he does hit on some thought-provoking issues. "What-if" exercises are interesting when you've got someone to give you proper context along the way. A polymath like Fry certainly knows enough European history to do that. In my mind, his knowledge of the German experience between the wars more than made up for the inherent flaws in time travel logic. (I doubt even Stephen Hawking could make the physics behind such machinery sound plausible.)

To his credit, Fry did not play up the sci-fi elements. What he did emphasize were pleasures of the intellect. Now I'm wondering: what if someone went back in time and made Making History disappear? I, for one, would feel less Unwahrscheinlicheleichternsthaftigkeit, and an even greater debt of outright fun.
Profile Image for Laura.
316 reviews14 followers
February 4, 2009
Amazing. My absolute favorite of Fry's excellent works, and one of my favorite books, period. Hilarious, it goes without saying. Intelligent, playful, silly/serious. Romantic. No one but Fry could write a book about Hitler that can make you cry with laughter.
"Sodding pants."
Profile Image for Alytha.
279 reviews52 followers
July 2, 2013
I think I read somewhere once that the first rule of timetravel is that you try to kill Hitler, and the second rule is that it either doesn't work, or things get even worse.

This book falls into the second category. So, in terms of concept, it's not entirely new, but the execution is really really good.

The book does an excellent job of capturing the human emotional level of the whole insane thing, and it's much funnier than you'd expect this kind of book to be.

This is not really a science-fiction book though. Apart from some techno-babble, we're never really told how the time-machine works, and that's not the point of the book either. It focusses on the consequences, which, despite the rather neat tech, are pretty horrible all around. Fortunately, a bit of human decency and compassion has survived. So this eventually turns into a bit of a romance too.

Another good thing is that the German in the text is almost always correct. Thank you, Mr Fry!

Some nitpicks: some of the flashbacks are rather dull to read.(there's a bit of breaking the fourth wall about that, later, though)

So, if you like history, and plots somewhere between Doctor Who and Monty Python, go for this one!

4.5 stars, really.
Profile Image for Wendy.
528 reviews28 followers
June 8, 2008
This amazing novel is a blend of science fiction, history, and time travel, and I thought it brilliant. If you're over the age of sixteen, chances are that you have spent a minute or two - in school or outside of it - pondering what our world would be like if the Germans had won World War II, or if Adolf Hitler had never been born, and that's exactly what this novel is about. Fry explores a spectrum of potential realities: historical, political, scientific, cultural, and sexual, and his speculations smack of realism and often of frightening possibleness.

Michael D. Young and Leo Zuckerman - the young British historian and the elderly German physicist at the centre of the story - are engaging, believable, and well-rounded characters, and the situations into which they are thrown are, as I said, thrilling and involving and page-turning stuff.

I also learned a few things about history - I can't believe I never knew that "Nazi" was merely the first four letters of the full name of the political party that Hitler helped to found, for instance.

I think I paid a dollar for this book, at a recent book sale at work. That was money well-spent.
Profile Image for Ric.
966 reviews112 followers
June 14, 2020
I wish I liked this book more, because I love Stephen Fry as an actor. But it started off so slow, like the first 200 pages were difficult to get through. After that was fine, but nothing that really blew me away and made the rating jump up for me. I wish I gave up on it, but the concept was so interesting that I was hoping it would get better. Unfortunately it was a bit too late and it didn’t redeem itself, so I was pretty disappointed with this one.
Profile Image for yoav.
252 reviews15 followers
November 22, 2022
קריאה חוזרת באחד הספרים האהובים עלי והראשון שקראתי בז'אנר ההיסטוריה האלטרנטיבית. קראתי לראשונה לפני כ- 20 שנה וזכרתי רק חלקים ממנו. גם הפעם נהנתי מאוד, סטיבן פריי סופר מוכשר ואיש חכם מאוד, שאוהב להשוויץ בידע שלו ועדיין שומר על חינניות, הומור ועניין. הספר קופץ בין ז'אנרי כתיבה שונים.
מעניין שבפעם הקודמת שקראתי יצאתי בתחושה שהשאלה בספר היא מה היה קורה אם... (התשובה כבר תהיה ספויילר).
ואילו הפעם אני חושב שהאמירה של הסופר היא אמירה קודרת על האופי האנושי ועל הדרך שבה האנושות תנצח.
Profile Image for Michelle.
102 reviews24 followers
January 5, 2015
This book is about Michael Young, a PhD candidate in the field of history, and Leo Zuckermann, a professor. They both attend Cambridge and have a big interest in World War II, and in Hitler especially. Young is writing his thesis about Hitler's life, while Zuckermann creates a time machine. When these two people meet, they decide to eliminate one of the biggest evils that this world has ever known: Hitler. They succeed, but what they did not know is that the world may had been better off with Hitler, than without Hitler.

I'm really glad that I gave this book a chance, it was such an unique book. It took 150 pages to warm up, and at first I really thought about giving up and abandoning it. The writing was a bit weird; it was something that I had not encountered before, the POVs kept shifting to people I did not know (I did not understand it at all, to be honest), but it all made sense after I found out what Young and Zuckermann were up to.

Fry's humour is very clever, but doesn't take away all the seriousness in the book; it is well-balanced. His references to pop culture really amused me and I liked that sometimes he changed to a film script format. It gave a nice touch to the book.

The only thing that really annoyed me was
Rudolf Gloder's POV. I did not add all that much to story, it merely strengthened his mean character, his brutality. Granted, it drew a nice parallel, but those bits were so dry and boring compared to Young's POV, and that was a bit disappointing.

If it takes you some pages to get into this book, do keep reading. It is a interesting, funny, and at the same time, serious book. It's a real page turner and before you know it you slam the book shut and realise it's all over.
165 reviews7 followers
September 13, 2012
This is my first approach to Fry's books.

It is an entertaining read. He is a talented and cultured man and that it is what you see while reading.

A book is always embedded with the author's feelings likes and dislikes and opinions about anything. It is his "creature" after all. No surprises there. However, it may seem here that the story is just a necessary background against which Fry's impress many of its thoughts (academia's live and fauna, “Scientific” vs. “Humanist” views, English vs. American, social and cultural criticism...) All of them spiced by many comments showing the broad culture of the author; a thing that, so plainly shown, I dislike very much in a book; the research, knowledge and culture should be there, but more slightly woven into the whole story. It is not bad, but I regret that the interesting story is just put aside. What it is left is just an entertaining reading of Fry's humoristic view on the world. Curiously enough, the research on Hitler's first days is thorough and compelling. I liked it much more those parts than the rest.

The implications on changing the past have been visited many a time before, with better end worse results. However... I do prefer "Back to the Future" in this sense. Admittedly, not the same thing, but far more amusing.
Profile Image for Franziska.
116 reviews13 followers
February 7, 2018
Wow - this book was amazing!
In the beginning, the switch between past and present was a bit odd and I had a hard time to find into the book. But after several chapters, you see how all of it fits to the story and then I couldn't stop reading. So I am really happy that I had the opportunity to read it & can only recommend it!
Profile Image for Sam.
224 reviews29 followers
March 1, 2022
Making History has one of the most uniquely mind-bending plots I have ever come across. Michael Young, a student pursuing a Ph.D. in History, encounters a non-assuming physics professor on a fateful day, thereby changing his life and the whole course of history. They both fixate on the idea of how the world would turn out if Adolf Hitler had never been born, and set about to make it into reality.

This isn't the first time I have heard about Stephen Fry, but I was always reluctant to try his books. What a grave mistake. I have never enjoyed and completely been absorbed by a book like this before. A great mixture of tragedy, humor, philosophy, history, and time travel is still not enough to describe what exactly this book represents. All I can say is that it's a wild ride from start to finish.

There are a lot of liberties taken, of course, with regards to the alternate history of the world and the whole science and technology aspect of the book, but I don’t think those are the points to ponder about. The heart-wrenching truth and circumstances surrounding the darkest period of human history and just the very idea of rewriting life as we know it, already gave a plethora of moments where I had to keep the book aside to digest the narrative.

All in all, even though it sometimes bordered on the outrageous and offensive, it is still one of the weirdest (in-the-best-way) books I have read till now.
Profile Image for Tom Van Hal.
49 reviews
May 17, 2023
Vermakelijke ‘Wat als…’ Minpunten voor de hoofdstukken die in de vorm van een script zijn geschreven.
Profile Image for S.J. Higbee.
Author 13 books31 followers
October 18, 2011
This is the first time I’ve picked up a Stephen Fry novel, and it was an enjoyable, if slightly uneven, experience. Thumbing through the opening pages, I noticed that this book was first published in 1996, which begins to make sense when considering some of the faultlines running through this alternate history offering.

The book is an intriguing premise – two men decide, for very different reasons, to tamper with history by ensuring the one man responsible for the rise of Nazi Germany is never born. However, the result isn’t what they bargained for… As a former history student, I thoroughly enjoyed Fry’s thorough approach to the historical content and had no problem with the leisurely start. And the conclusion that Fry comes to is certainly thought provoking – I’ve been thinking a lot about the book since I put it down.

Fry successfully establishes Michael’s character as a wunderkind bedevilled with increasing insecurities as his peers are rapidly catching up, if not overhauling his precocious giftedness. Inevitably, given the sub-genre, the narrative timeline is speckled with flashbacks which are ably handled. And it goes without saying that the writing is excellent – actually, that shouldn’t go without saying. Excellent writing should always be acknowledged and I’d be selling Fry short if I just gave a nod in that direction because we all know that the man has an intellect the size of Greece’s overdraft.

So far, so good. The protagonist has been well established, with plenty of depth. We have met with Leo and there’s been a couple of interesting plot twists – and then the novel prose comes to abrupt end and I was confronted with a film script. The action immediately speeded up as I witnessed a major emotional confrontation spool through in this script mode – feeling completely unconnected to the characters. Later in the novel, there is another, longer film script interlude, which also had the effect of alienating me from the action – a real shame as I’d really enjoyed the book up to this point.

I am aware that my extreme aversion to this literary device is subjective – probably connected to the fact that books are my first and major love, while films are okay, I suppose…. However, I did find the film script sections really spoilt the book for me. Having said that, up to the point it all went Courier I found the depiction of the alternate world engrossing and chilling in equal measure. Fry is good at writing minor characters memorably and the flashes of humour helped alleviate what could have been a grim read, given the subject matter.

All in all, it’s an interesting book with an interesting premise and if you enjoy alternate histories, I highly recommend it. Who knows - you may even enjoy the scripted sections…
Profile Image for Jenn "JR".
455 reviews81 followers
November 16, 2018
This was my first Stephen Fry book -- and I was a bit daunted by the 500+ page length. The writing is pretty fast moving -- heaps of details that make me feel like he's writing for a film, plus some sections where it's written like a film dialogue (not really sure why he's used this).

Essentially, the story is about a student working on his PhD dissertation which sounds like an even more purple style of prose than Erik Larsen (bless his heart) and is laughed off by his dissertation advisor. He crosses paths with a theoretical physicist who shares a painful personal story and, combined with access to an ex-girlfriend's pharmaceutical project at work -- proposes "let's make sure Hitler was never born."

The book really didn't pick up steam until about halfway through -- that's a massive investment in weak development of ancillary characters and lengthy history essays. some of the history essays get longer in the second half, but the pace picks up. We learn about the new world at the same pace of the protagonist.

In a rather circular, roundabout way, Fry makes the point that cultural conditions result in so many things that the removal of one person won't necessarily mitigate the development of some particular outcome. While he did a great job illustrating, in a small way, how some small changes would result in a world that is more or less racist/bigoted or homophobic... he left out all the super interesting bits about what was happening in Germany after WWI that resulted in the rise of nationalism and cultural rebirth -- which created a really excellent environment for a charismatic leader. I like the alternate history told in first person perspective, and I like the extra implications for even worse and more dire consequences of the protagonist's attempt to "fix" history.

The ending is lovely - and makes me wonder if we could see this as a "Wizard of Oz" dream sequence where our protagonist realizes what he really wants at the end, and seizes it.
Profile Image for Roz.
908 reviews53 followers
April 28, 2018
I found myself really enjoying Stephen Fry's delve into a different history and the effects on the present.

The premise is simple. What would the current world be like if Hitler had not been born? Instinct says it should be a vast improvement. In this rather gripping novel, Fry suggests that theory incorrect. Although this is the only novel of Fry's that I have read that uses extremely simplistic language (an unusual choice considering the characters are: a student writing his doctoral thesis in history, a professor of physics, and a student at Princeton), the premise keeps it in the realm one would expect from the genius Fry.

The characterisation was an interesting choice. Initial I found Michael Young to be incredibly young. But then, would someone with maturity really risk changing history? As to Leo Zuckerman, his guilt felt real, which really added to his motivation for doing what he did. Having said that though, I am not convinced that Young's comic actions and immaturity were necessarily the best means to relay such an interesting theory. I think Fry was wanting a lighter tone to the novel (he achieved that), but I do not think it met my preference.

Overall, I am very happy to have read this. I learnt something about WW2 (and WW1) and have something to chew on with regards to human nature and the results of WW1. I think anyone interested in history would find this an interesting read - if they can push through the beginning (should it not appeal).
Profile Image for Heather(Gibby).
1,219 reviews21 followers
November 6, 2014
This was the first book by Stephen Fry that I have read. It is an enjoyable easy read, dealing with one of my favorite genres, time travel.

I found the chapters that were written to mimic a movie scripts were very distracting, and don't really understand its use as a literary style. does Fry do this often?

The storyline is a fairly classic one, What would happen if you travelled back in time and prevented Hitler from being born?

The clever consequences of this action make this a very interesting read.
The main protagonist is a flawed individual who steals your heart anyway.
I was also quite amused by the comparisons between "American" and English" expressions in the book, as a Canadian, is was 50/50 as to which one was more familiar to me.
Profile Image for Gavin Broom.
Author 4 books5 followers
August 10, 2015
As much as I adore Stephen Fry, this was my first exposure to his fiction writing.

It's as clever a novel as I thought it would be. Wonderful use of language and style and a complicated storyline.

The novel poses the question of what would happen if you could go back in time and get rid of Hitler. It also makes the assertion that you don't know what you've got til it's gone.

The two strands of story blend well together and it's clear a lot of research has gone into the sections that deal with pre War Germany.

For such a potentially heavy topic, it's a humorous read, especially when our hero finds himself in a very strange land once history shifts.
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