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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ordinary, contemporary decency, 27 Nov 2009
This review is from: Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (Paperback)
Some of the reviews written above complain or find fault with Ms. Funders interjections or opinions during the course of her conversations with the people she meets yet I believe this adds very much to the charm and integrity of her account. She is reacting to the stories of people who lived under a regime that would have seemed incomprehensible to a girl born on the other side of the world (Australia, 1966) when the Wall had already been in existence for five years. It could have been something happening on another planet. It is significant, I think, that Ms. Funders never actually saw the Wall. It was gone by the time she got to Berlin. But the legacy of the Wall lived on in the damage it had done to the people imprisoned behind it and this is what her book is about. It is not a scholarly work with footnotes, nor is it a series of interviews conducted in English with an (unacknowledged) interpreter doing the donkey work which is what we have come to expect from our television superstars. This is not Gitta Sereny interviewing concentration camp commanders, nor even Hannah Arendt commenting on the 'banality of evil' as she witnesses the trial of Adolf Eichmann. No, this is a very different thing altogether. This is a young Australian woman of Danish descent (she thought that was close enough to "pass" as German, but it turned out it wasn't) who decided to study German as a kid to the bewilderment of her family. She liked the weird agglomerations of the language that made nuanced new words. She goes to Berlin and starts to meet people who lived under the DDR regime, already 7 years defunct by the time she gets there. That's where the stories come from. So she's judgemental. Why not? She can hardly believe what she is hearing. This is late 20th Century Alice in Stasiland -- just as weird as the Lewis Carroll original: there is no unemployment even if you are unemployed, this is a multi-party state even if there is only one party, the Wall protects you even if we shoot you for trying to leave. Something is seriously askew here. Objectivity in these circumstances would have led to the following "balanced" report from Berlin in former times: 'Obviously the Jews must be doing something deeply subversive, otherwise Herr Hitler wouldn't be so angry with them'. Indubitably. In fact, I find several parallels with this occasionally poetic (very rarely over-written) account of Ms. Funder with that of the "Berlin Stories" of Christopher Isherwood written from the same city during the early 1930s when the Nazis were just coming to power. In the same way as Isherwood she captures the feeling and mood of the city, the swampy setting, the wide grey streets, the bustling trams, the cavernous apartments with brown linoleum, the trees, the parks, the drunks, the feverish gaiety, the underlying gloom. Ms. Funder gives us a personal (and why not?) snapshot of a certain time and place just as Isherwood -- 'I am a camera' -- did for another period in the history of this city.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Feb 2010 05:51:44 GMT
Stargazer says:
Your review was excellent. It sounds to me that you know Anna Funder, as the background information you gave is not generally known. I thought the book ( which I've only read in the past few months) was fascinating. I would love the Yanks to read this book - they wouldn't "get" it at all. The fact that people were Communist by choice would amaze them.
I'm sure the East Germans under a Communist government were a darn sight better off than are many Americans today.

Posted on 5 Jun 2014 20:46:53 BDT
Luksy Ann says:
Well said, Brenlyons. Stasiland is not an academic tome, so there is room for some personal, anecdotal information. Writers of such works need not be ciphers in their own books.
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