13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Great Premise, Poor Execution,
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This review is from: Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (Paperback)
A few years ago I saw 'Goodbye Lenin!' and was fascinated by the idea of life in the GDR. This was further cemented by seeing 'The Lives of Others', so I chose this book hoping for some greater insight to life in East Germany during this time. Sadly, this book disappointed on many levels.
Anna Funder is an Australian who lived and worked in East Berlin some six or so years after the Wall fell.
She used this times as an opportunity to interview Ex-Stasi members and their victims in order to understand their lives, and bring out the truth that the West apparently wanted to ignore. The stories she uncovers are by turns shocking and affecting, and the bravery of some of those people is truly humbling.
However, these stories are set against some very contrived writing about clouds, drunkards, and her 'feelings'. One gets the feeling Funder tries to imbue the mundane with a sense of divinity and purpose that does not really exist. She does, as previous reviewers state, talk far too much about herself, the condition of her lino flooring, and other such trivial observations, you wonder what other more interesting stories were lost in editing so we could hear Funders' rambling.
All in all I think the people in this book could have been served better . Their stories are astonishing, and I feel Funder would have made a better book had she listened more, analyzed a little less, and stopped obsessing over linoleum.
(Readers who seek to know more about life under a repressive Socialist regime would be better off reading 'Nothing to Envy' by Barbara Demick.)
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Initial post: 23 Jun 2014 16:27:15 BDT
You ask, "what other more interesting stories were lost in editing?" but my sense is actually that the padding and filler that you refer to was inserted precisely because she had no more interesting stories. The opening account of "Miriam" is hugely compelling, its fascinating horror drawing you in in a manner akin to witnessing a car crash. My appetitie duly whetted, I then waded through endless accounts of how Funder walked in the park, looked through her windows, moved her furniture around and made banal small talk with her landlady, all in the hope of finding the next fascinating witness account. All I found, between the irrelevant autobiographical cul-de-sacs, were accounts of Funder's failure to find any subjects for candid interviews, and some superficial backstories on key politburo members that I could just have easily sourced from Wikipedia. I suspect that Funder pitched the eyewitness accounts idea to her publisher before she realised she would struggle to obtain the promised material, and ended up having no choice but to pad her work with endless observations about lino.
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