Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall Paperback – 17 Jun 2004
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Anna Funder's penetrating and dispassionate Stasiland really begins with one significant date: the year 1989. The Berlin Wall falls and the history of a country that had become a microcosm of the Cold War is changed irrevocably. With the hated symbol of the enforced division between East and West reduced to rubble, the two Germanys--East and West--are able to reunite; grey, depressed East Germany becomes a memory.
After the initial euphoria, the change was hard for the world to accept, but it was both exhilarating and unsettling for the denizens of the Soviet bloc state, who had lived under the brutal, paranoid regime of the secret police, the dreaded Stasi of the title. For the inhabitants of East Germany, there were some stark statistics: one in 50 East Germans had informed on a fellow citizen, and human beings behaved in fashions unthinkable just the space of a wall away.
The amazing stories that Anna Funder tells in Stasiland bring to life with extraordinary vividness both the dark and the more human sides of life in the former East Germany: a young girl who could have started World War III, the man who laid down the line that became the Wall. These and a hundred other tales (from both the recent past and the present, as Berlin still struggles with the legacy of history) make for a highly unusual book, the final effect of which is as life-affirming and positive as the destruction of the Wall must have been for those who watched. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'Stasiland...is a terrific act of life-giving to people who have lacked not just a voice but an audience -- Telegraph
A brilliant and necessary book about oppression and history...Here is someone who knows how to tell the truth -- Evening Standard Books of the Year
A journey into the bizarre, scary, secret history of the former East Germany that is both relevant and riveting -- Travel Books of the Year, Sunday Times
Brilliantly illustrates the weird, horrifying, viciously cruel place that was Cold War East Germany...' -- Evening Standard
Funder is a superb interviewer she truly excels in the rendering of her sessions with former Stasi employees -- Sunday Times
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Top Customer Reviews
Younger readers may not appreciate just how impenetrable the wall seemed. If you were behind the wall, you stayed behind the wall. There were no east European visitors to the west, and precious few western visitors to the east. Of all the eastern bloc nations, East Germany seemed to be the strictest, most monolithic of the lot. The wall was their public face. When the wall fell, the Federal Republic of Germany quickly subsumed its eastern counterpart; there were stories of poverty and skinheads, but the history of the GDR was quickly wiped from both books and minds.
So it is interesting to read Anna Funder’s account of time spent living in the former GDR in the 1990s, meeting some of the people whose lives had been affected by the Ministry for State Security – or Stasi as it was commonly known. It is clear that Funder has a particular agenda – that the Stasi were monstrous and that the socialist system was an abomination – but through the people’s stories, a more subtle picture emerges. We see a government that was bound by rules and protocols that sometimes applied. We see a multi-party democracy that was encouraged to exist as long as it was ineffective. We see a population that had a sense of fair play and, even within the socialist system, was willing to challenge and push boundaries. We also saw a border that was more permeable than many people thought, with annual trade conventions bringing western visitors; day trippers through Checkpoint Charlie; and dissident easterners sold to the west for hard currency.Read more ›
The first chapter paints a brilliant (and rather funny!) picture of the dark absurdity of a dictatorship. It is amazing how bogged down in detail, how ridiculously self-important it became. The fake moustaches, the cameras hidden in flowery granny handbags seem to come straight of "The Avengers". But soon, the tone turns sombre, as we begin to grasp how this "rule of Marxisten-Senilisten" drained joy and choice out of people's life. I had to keep reminding myself that this is fact, not fiction, as the drama and poignancy builds like a novel.
The whole account is deeply personal. Funder alternates the analysis of her investigations with descriptions of her own film noir-ish life in Berliner pubs and stripped apartments. It appears that she combines her exploratory drive with great poetry and a real knack for story-telling: her language is always lyrical and atmospheric, creating a real sense of time and place. Bridging the gap between story-telling and journalism, Anna Funder has written a unique and beautiful book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall from cover to cover. Overall I thought it was an insightful book on aspects of life in the German Democratic Republic. Read morePublished 1 month ago by MeathSmiler
Very readable book - read it while in Berlin and found it added to the overall visit experience very well. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Stevejmo
Written by someone who returns after the wall has fallen to East (Berlin) Germany. Discusses with ex Stasi and those affected by their actions what is was like to live during those... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mr. Steven Drake
A really engaging read. The accounts of the Stasi and the repercussions of their actions, from both sides, are fascinating and moving. Read morePublished 2 months ago by BuyTheBook
Really interesting - great for anyone who is interested in the GDR and what life was like for ordinary people and for Stasi workers. Very readable.Published 3 months ago by Pullover Red
Fascinating insight into life in the former East Germany. I watched Deutschland 83 on the TV and was interested in what life was really like. Read morePublished 3 months ago by A. Stanhope