|Print List Price:||$15.99|
Save $3.00 (19%)
Price set by seller.
Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall Kindle Edition
|New from||Used from|
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
About the Author
Anna Funder is an Australian author. She is the author of Stasiland and All That I Am and the novella The Girl With the Dogs.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B004U6WXZ0
- Publisher : Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 20, 2011)
- Publication date : September 20, 2011
- Language : English
- File size : 5799 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 307 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #253,374 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
In my penniless student days (1959) before the Wall went up, I spent a month in Berlin West and East. I put in plenty of time in the eastern sector, then accessible to tourists, since it was a lot cheaper to eat there. Still, it scared the hell outa me. Not much had happened since the "rubble women" had swept up and stacked the loose bricks into nice orderly Teutonic piles. But the thing I noticed most was the difference in behavior between the open, friendly, fun-loving Westies and the dour, ill-clad, incurious, uncommunicative East Berliners. The realization that politics and military power could have such a profound effect on people's everyday behavior and their inner spirits made me an enemy of any country's heavy-handed social experiments and use of brute force in dealing with its citizens.
Ms. Funder, who haunted the former capital of East German capital for many months a few years after the East Germans themselves attacked the Wall and made it history,tracked down several victims of the utterly nasty East German communist regime.Their stories of treatment at the hands of the "Stasi" - the GDR's manically thorough and compulsive secret police -will curl your hair and maybe gives you nightmares.
Worse still are her interviews with several former unrepenting Stasi officers who recount, with deadpan accuracy, the many ingenious ways they sought to bend selected GDR citizens to their control. Far too many succumbed, swelling Stasi files until, by Funder's accounting, nearly one GDR citizen in six became a Stasi informant. Nonetheless, says Funder, GDR citizens who simply declined the Stasi's recruitment efforts suffered few ill effects, and fell off the Stasi radar. Despite such non-cooperation, East Germany quicky fell from the Nazi frying pan into the communist fire. Many were burned.
Read this book, and remember it for the next time you hear about the police asking for information about perople you know.
"Stasiland" is not a history, but rather a piece of journalism. In style it resembles a long New Yorker article, and it is also something like a travel book, in which an author travels to an exotic land and reveals its peculiarities. Also regrettably familiar is a style of writing in which the author's personal experiences and attitudes compete with the actual subject matter. One can skip about half of this book without missing very much.
"Stasiland" consists of anecdotes obtained by the author through interviews with former Stasi agents and former residents of the GDR. A great drawback of this approach is that depends on just which interviewees the author happened to meet--which in this case appears to have been more or less at random. Indeed, many interesting observations do turn up in these interviews, which makes the book--with the aforementioned skipping--an entertaining read, and entitles it to the three stars I have given. But one will find little about the GDR that isn't already well known, and if one wants a serious understanding, one had better look elsewhere. An excellent source is "The Ideal World of Dictatorship," by Stefan Wolle.
Top reviews from other countries
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. The baddies – Erich Honecker and Erich Mielke (Head of State and Minister of State Security respectively) are brought to life and seen as real people with real personalities rather than just faces on posters and posed photographs.
The strongest story by a long distance is Miriam, a young woman who got into trouble for political activity whilst still at school. Her story continues throughout the book. There are other characters, some memorable and others less so. Funder’s landlord Julia had her own story to tell – a sort of Miriamesque story. There were others who had been Stasi employees or casual informants. Some were repentant, others defiant. Some characters had made the adjustment to the new world order successfully; others had struggled. My favourite, though, was the East German radio commentator Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, notorious for his defence of shoot to kill policies for escapees and still predicting a revival of the socialist state despite being unable to show his face in public.
Some readers have criticised Funder’s gonzo approach to the book. She is very much in stage centre; the book is as much about Funder’s journey of discovery as it is about those she discovered. It’s a matter of judgement, but the balance feels right. Funder’s experience of brown lino, concrete walls and nights in the beer cellars adds a depth and colour to the stories. It creates a narrative drive that makes the book flow and feel less like a parade of shocking facts. It also allows the insertion of an editorial direction; it lets Funder explain the wider political context; events of national importance or historical significance without clumsily placing them in the mouths of her interviewees.
If I do have a beef, it is that sometimes the editorialising is take too far and conclusions are set out in black an white when they might have had a stronger impact if readers had been able to figure them out for themselves.
Stasiland is as successful a collection of personal narratives as I can remember reading. The subject matter is inherently interesting and shocking; the field is largely unexplored elsewhere; the structure works well and the writing is engaging.
She used classified ads to reach former members of the Stasi and anti-Stasi organizations and interviewed them. She describes these interviews in a series of vignettes.
My main take-away from this book is that former Stasi operatives or informers aren't giving much away. Funder doesn't seem to be able to avoid writing herself into an account of a period of history that has nothing to do with her. She spends half of the book talking about her own hangovers, her apartment, food she cooks herself, even a dream she has. She could have omitted these sections and more put into dealing with first-hand accounts of life in the East German regime . These are the most fascinating, touching and enjoyable parts of the book.
Taken with a pinch of salt, Stasiland is a frustrating insight into a totalitarian regime.
This is not a simple review of the Stasi but one that weaves in a lot of fascinating narrative, but also a fair amount of rather disjointed personal recollections and prejudices.
Among those prejudices is a habit of criticising people simply for what they look like, and you can instantly tell the outcome of a new meeting by how she describes their appearance. She rarely asks the fundamental question of “why did they do it?” or “why didn’t they stop doing it?” so we are not a great deal wiser at the end of the book.
The terrorism (and loss) of the victims doesn’t match the emptiness and vacant lives of the perpetrators interviewed in the book.
Indeed, I feel more informed by how Stasi and other East German functionaries are portrayed in fiction than in this book. But, the narrative does very powerfully tell important stories, notably those of her landlady, Julia, and two other victims of the Stasi’s repression, bullying and intimidation: Miriam and Frau Paul.
More than once, Ms Funder is clearly irritated by the former Stasi officers having the temerity to try to tell their story, and one wonders what more she (and we) might have learnt if she had just listened to them. On occasion, we come tantalisingly close to reasons, to rationale, to apologies even, but the reader is swept ever onward and outward, being ultimately rewarded only by such anecdotes as how she waited for the bus after one interview. Funder narrates the stories of the three women expertly yet somehow provides a ‘get out of jail free’ card to the former Stasi.
Given the incredible success of Stasiland, I suspect others are somewhat less critical of the book though!