In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. In Stasiland, winner of the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, a country where the headquarters of the secret police can become a museum literally overnight, and one in fifty East Germans were informing on their countrymen and women. She meets Miriam, who as a sixteen-year-old might have started the Third World War, visits the man who painted the line which became the Berlin Wall and gets drunk with the legendary 'Mik Jegger' of the East, who the authorities once declared - to his face - to 'no longer exist'.
"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.
I read this while on a visit to Berlin and struggled to tear myself away, such an in depth insight into what life in the DDR was like
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
A simply constructed and highly personal account of recent western oppression. With the current peace and openness, it's worth being reminded of how recently people's freedom and expression were being squashed in Berlin. Funder doesn't attempt any particular art or sophistication. She takes a simple idea for a book and uses it to pull you into the intimate lives of familiar people.
A stunning depiction of life in the GDR - and how it has lingered on...
Similar to Murakami's "Underground" in it's direction, but written with an infinitely more personal touch. The lives that Funder explores are those of people entrenched in a world where independence and individuality was a threat to the state.
The characters are true survivors and even the ex-Stasi men that appear throughout reveal a more human side to the most efficient 'anti-terrorist' operatives the world has ever seen.
I started reading the book on a plane and could not stop. You are pulled into these personal stories and, although most of the interviewees have never crossed each others' paths, they stories are intertwined and engaging.
A must read!