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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (original 2002; edition 2011)

by Anna Funder

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1,001318,543 (4.07)54
Member:Cfraser
Title:Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Authors:Anna Funder
Info:Harper Perennial (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder (2002)

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» See also 54 mentions

English (29)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
I mostly enjoyed this look at East Germany in the decade after the wall came down. It was especially interesting to me because I remember watching all the events leading to the fall of the GDR unfold. I even have an authentic piece of the wall a college friend brought me from his trip to Germany in the summer of 1990. He swears he chipped it off himself, lol. I was interested to read more about ordinary people from the East and their experiences.
Funder shares stories of people who were persecuted by the Stasi, and stories of people who worked for the Stasi. The stories are really interesting, and it is clear that Funder has the ability to create trust with those she interviewed, as well as the ability to communicate the stories with all their emotion and pathos to the reader. A couple of things bothered me. One was that this is someone not only from the West, but not even from Germany doing the writing, and so, in a way, it's really a research project. I was also a little troubled by the judgmental tone that occasionally came across in the writing. The style is journalistic, but easy to read, and if you're interested in the subject, it's worth your time. ( )
  nittnut | Nov 28, 2014 |
This is a "must read" for anyone wanting to understand what life was like in the former East Germany. Anna Funder speaks to victims of the Stasi (State Police) and former employees of the organisation. It is written in a haunting, captivating tone and manages, also, to give the reader a real flavour of what it was like for Anna herself living in the former East Berlin. ( )
  MargaritaMorris | Oct 16, 2014 |
My friend Aleks and I are each writing non-fiction stories that involve some form of first-person narrative. It's a troublesome form, first person, because quite often the narrative gets in the way of the story. Done poorly, it's a narcissistic writer's tool that reads about as well as a monkey uses a hammer.

I realize that's hardly a ringing endorsement for first-person stories, and yet Anna Funder has managed to do exactly the opposite with Stasiland. The book, and the stories of the people she meets as she pieces together life in East Berlin during the time of The Wall, is gorgeous and flawed (in the best way).

Funder's story paints a picture of daily life in East Berlin under the brutal watch of the Stasi, the sector's secret police. She offers little historical insight or weighty dissections of how East Berlin came to be. Instead, she spends her time fluttering from citizen to Stassi to citizen, at each stop painting portraits of a life stuck in a particular time.

Even as I try to capture her narrative style and stylings, I find it difficult. On more than one occasion, I found the lack of contextual depth noticeable only to realize five minutes later that Funder had pulled me along with her gentle narratives. The story felt intellectually light in some places, and yet full of the humanity of her subjects.

It's the last point that I expected to bother me as I finished the book. Certainly the book wasn't long on context. Often I felt as if the author relied simply upon "what you know" about East Berlin to shorthand the narrative, and yet the world of the Stasi's GDR surrounded me as I read and her characters lept off the page.

So if this review seems disjointed in its explanation, let me lay any confusion to rest: Funder's writing is brilliant and beautiful, and paints her story across the canvas. The misgivings about the style are my own.

Read this book today. ( )
  thebradking | Feb 22, 2014 |
Hard to place in any specific genre. Funder investigates the GDR (before the Wall came down in 1989) and the life of the East Germans under the Stasi in interview form. She includes personal experience of her visits there and is written in novel/narrative form with a personal "I", so it takes a while to realise it's not a novel - though it's marketed as one - the main point being the disclaimer that names have been changed (to protect people who spoke to her I imagine). It's not quite a fully researched historical novel either, though she has some historical data etc in the sources at the back - it's more about how the wall affected people's lives, and how it is for them after the wall came down and I think it's a valid way to explore it - the personal accounts make it more real & go some way to educating people who might not know much history. There are plenty of dry history books around for exact details if you want that.

Much of the wall doesn't exist now, but for many of the people the wall is still in their heads. The "Mauer im Kopf". The wall persists in the x-Stasi minds as something they hope might one day come again, and in their victims' minds too, as a possibility. Many people are waiting still for the puzzle-women to reconstruct shredded Stasi files to find out what happened to their loved ones, why their hopes, careers, & aspirations never eventuated behind the Wall and at the rate the puzzle women work it will be about 375 years apparently before the job is completed - though many wait hoping to make sense of what happened to their lives before they can move on.

While the subject matter is depressing Funder manages to write without dragging you into the mire. There are some heart rending moments when some people are being interviewed, the woman with the sick child in hospital in the west while she is stuck in the east,and the death of Charlie. One is more gobsmacked at the level of ridiculous rules the Stasi applied on the people turning many into informers to save their own skin.

Among other research info,Funder found instructions to Stasi operatives on ways of crippling "oppositional" people.((From Directive 'Perceptions'('Richtlinien, Stichpunkt Wahrnehmung') It aims ""To develop apathy (in the subject)...to achieve a situation in which his conflicts, whether of a social, personal, career, health or political kind are irresolvable.. to give rise to fears in him.....to develop/create disappointments.....to restrict his talents or capabilities.....to reduce his capacity to act and.....to harness dissentions and contradictions around him for that purpose.... ""

Certainly Orwellian. Certainly frightening. Reminds me somewhat of the Department of Social Security in Australia (centrelink), though I am not sure they have such a printed manifesto.

btw the cover photograph is of the Author. I'm not sure why she is on it, but because of it I initially thought it was a chick lit book that my daughter would like.
( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
This work gets its name from the Stasi – which was the internal army by which the East German government kept control (just like NKVD in USSR). Its job was to know everything about everyone, using any means it chose.

In its forty years, ‘the Firm’ generated the equivalent of all records in German history since the middle ages. Laid out upright and end to end, the files the Stasi kept on their countrymen and women would form a line 180 kilometres long.

The paragraph below would render a general idea how deeply it affected lives of people under its “rule”:

In Hitler’s Third Reich it is estimated that there was one Gestapo agent for every 2000 citizens, and in Stalin’s USSR there was one KGB agent for every 5830 people. In the GDR, there was one Stasi officer or informant for every sixty-three people. If part-time informers are included, some estimates have the ratio as high as one informer for every 6.5 citizens.

Anna Funder depicts beautifully the “logic” behind the Wall:

So, according to Koch, Ulbricht, the head of state, decided he needed to build an ‘anti-fascist protective measure’. I have always been fond of this term which has something of the prophylactic about it, protecting easterners from the western disease of shallow materialism. It obeys all the logic of locking up free people to keep them safe from criminals.
( )
  Veeralpadhiar | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
While the life-stories are touching and infuriating, she fails to offer insights that would have given her book a wider theme. Nevertheless, taken with a pinch of salt, Stasiland is worth reading. In the end, German history is too serious to be left solely to the Germans.
added by SamuelW | editThe Independent, Henning Hoff (Jul 31, 2003)
 

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Book description
In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterward the two Germanys reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. Anna Funder’s bestselling Stasiland brings us extraordinary tales of real lives in the former East Germany. She meets Miriam, who tried to escape to West Berlin as a sixteen-year-old; hears the heartbreaking story of Frau Paul, who was separated from her baby by the Berlin Wall; and gets drunk with the legendary “Mik Jegger of the East,” once declared by the authorities—to his face—“no longer to exist.” And she meets the Stasi men themselves, still proud of their surveillance methods. Funder’s powerful account of that brutal world has become a contemporary classic.
[retrieved 2/19/2013 from Amazon.com]
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In this book, Anna Funder tells the stories of people who found the courage to resist the Stasi, the communist regime's secret police.

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