Stasiland tells true stories of people who heroically resisted the communist dictatorship of East Germany, and of people who worked for its secret police, the Stasi. Internationally hailed as a classic, it is ‘fascinating, entertaining, hilarious, horrifying and very important’ (Tom Hanks) and ‘a heartbreaking, beautifully written book.’ (Claire Tomalin).
East Germany was one of the most intrusive surveillance states of all time. One in 7 people spied on their friends, family and colleagues. In ‘the most humane and sensitive way’ (J.M. Coetzee) Funder tells the true stories of four people who had the extraordinary courage to refuse to collaborate with the Stasi, and the price they paid. She meets Miriam Weber, who was imprisoned at 16 after scaling the Berlin Wall. She drinks with the legendary “Mik Jegger” of the Eastern Bloc who was ‘disappeared’. And she finds former Stasi men who defend their regime long past its demise, and yearn for the second coming of Communism.
Stasiland won the Samuel Johnson Prize for best non-fiction published in English in 2004. It was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the W.H. Heinemann Award, the Index Freedom of Expression Awards, The Age Book of the Year Awards, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature (Innovation in Writing). It is read in schools and universities in many countries, and has been adapted for CD and the stage by The National Theatre, London.
"Its job was to know everything about everyone, using any means it chose. It knew who your visitors were, it knew whom you telephoned, and it knew if your wife slept around." This was the fearsome Stasi, the Ministry for State Security of the late and unlamented German Democratic Republic. Funder, an Australian writer, international lawyer and TV and radio producer, visiting Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, finds herself captivated by stories of people who resisted the Stasi--moving stories that she collects in her first book, which was shortlisted for two literary awards in Australia. For instance, Miriam Weber, a slight woman with a"surprisingly big nicotine-stained voice," was placed in solitary confinement at the age of 16 for printing and distributing protest leaflets; she was caught again during a dramatic nighttime attempt to go over the Wall. Filtered through Funder's own keen perspective, these dramatic tales highlight the courage that ordinary people can display in torturous circumstances.
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I've been to the GDR before the wall was built, during its existence and after it came down and often thought my experiences were worthy of a book. Anna Funder has written that book and given us the social history of a failed state brilliantly told though the eyes of both the oppressed and the oppressors. The book is so well written that it's hard to put down; a veritable page turner, most unusual in a history book!