Stasiland: True Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

by Anna Funder
ISBN: 1862075808

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A Review of: Stasiland
by Greg Gatenby

Journalist Anna Funder has written a brilliant book about the secret police of East Germany. Rather than give a chronological history of the Stasi, Funder, who lived in Berlin in the mid-1990s, found victims-and here recounts the tales told to her-of the Stasi as well as some of its former officers. The accounts by the victims make chilling reading yet they are rivaled in their horror by the oily self-justifications of the torturers. As an outsider, Funder is an astute observer of Berlin life; indeed, it was because she was Australian and writing in English that most of the agents agreed to speak with her. From my own recent residence in Berlin I too was struck by the propensity of most Berliners to want to forget the degradations and traumas committed by the Stasi (this in contrast to the Berliners' ongoing sensitivity to the outrages of the Nazi era). Funder manages to rise above any tone of self-righteousness or earnestness. Rather, she lets her contacts speak at length. In addition, she supplies just the right amount of historical context and narrative interpolation to make the tome poignant throughout. Stasiland bears witness magnificently, and is so well written that I am not surprised it won accolades and was shortlisted for major prizes in her homeland.

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