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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  5,111 ratings  ·  560 reviews
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 th ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 2003)
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The East German Stasi was the world's best and most efficient secret police, the textbook definition of the omnipresent Big Brother. The Stasi guarded and secured the rule of East Germany's Communist Party for four decades, during which it seeped into every tiny crevice of East German society. East Germans could not escape the Stasi - in every seven people, one informed for it; all spaces where life took place have been infiltrated and monitored by the Stasi, which kept meticulous records on its ...more
Nov 23, 2011 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the chicken eats you
Recommended to Mariel by: another goodreader said David Byrne. I'm not that cool to know any Talking Head
Horror romance. I can't think of anything better than what Anna Funder came up with to describe the fascination with life in the DDR, behind the Berlin wall and under the microscope (real perverts use petrie dishes. Fact!). It's like that tv show with Tim Roth (the name escapes me right now. My mom "treated" me to a long speech like their techniques to spot liars would actually work and then forced reasons to try them on absolutely everyone and kept calling me a liar for stupid things. I imagine ...more
This was quite a fascinating book, especially since it's a bit of a walk down memory lane for me.

I had heard that it is quite a controversial book, especially in Germany, and thus I didn't quite know what to expect. I didn't expect the sort of memoir that this book is but I actually found that it worked quite well. And I think because Stasiland is a personal book and it never seeks to be objective in the sense a history book might aim to be, Anna Funder is in a position to take sides and becomes
Il titolo originale del libro è Stasiland e rende in pieno il contenuto ed il senso dell’opera, più che la libera traduzione italiana. Si tratta infatti di un viaggio nel paese della Stasi, , la polizia politica della Ddr, uno tra i più efficienti e capillari servizi di spionaggio di tutti i tempi, lo strumento che il Partito aveva a disposizione, insieme con i carri armati sovietici, perché la Repubblica Democratica Tedesca sopravvivesse per quarant’anni. Tra dipendenti ed informatori nella Ddr ...more
ETA: I want to make myself really clear. I wanted to give this book five stars. That is how I reacted; I thought it was amazing and astounding what the author depicted through this book. It was only my head that reduced one star because I was a bit annoyed by some of the generalizations.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it sure did surprise me. Being a book of non-fiction I expected objectivity in its analysis of life behind the Wall. The author is not impartial. Shouldn't one be impartial wh
I came across this book because David Byrne recommended it in Bicycle Diaries. It's an incredible book. I literally had to check to make sure the label said non-fiction, because some of it is so unbelievable. It tells the story of the Eastern side of Berlin when the wall was up, and the way people's lives were controlled, manipulated, and destroyed. I thought I had some idea of what went on, but I really didn't understand the extent of it until I read this book. I didn't expect this book to be s ...more
Dec 12, 2008 J. rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ... keyhole listeners ...
As the most visibly catastrophic wreckage of the Cold War, the gray horror of life in the German Democratic Republic-- East Germany--- was carefully choreographed by the security apparatus, the Stasi. The basics of state control were expanded to previously unimaginable heights with the Stasi's network of informants and secret police.

Anna Funder's participatory journalism brings the ghosts of this bizarre surveillance state out to tell their own story in the vivid Stasiland, which manages to be i
This book works well as a personal and very subjective account of a process of trying to learn about something that no longer exists. It's not an objective, deeply researched study of the GDR, more a description of fascinating personal experiences and discoveries.

I lived in the GDR for a year as a student back in the 1970s. The reality was in fact far more complex and layered (and contradictory) than Ms Funder describes but I enjoyed the book as it showed a genuine attempt to understand and occ
Alice in Stasiland.

Venghino siori venghino ad immaginare di provare il brivido di una vita, anzi di tutte le vite dei tedeschi dell'est, messe in vetrina molto prima del Grande Fratello televisivo, pilotate e manovrate già prima del Truman Show, in un clima ed in un'atmosfera completamente disumani e surreali, in una realtà che supera di gran lunga la fantasia.

Venghino siori venghino nel museo della Stasi di Lipsia ad ammirare nelle vetrine "i vasi dei campioni olfattivi", quelli dove venivano c
Take a walk through Berlin today and you'll have a job finding evidence that this was once a divided city. There's certainly a sizeable chunk of the Berlin Wall on Potsdamer Platz. But in the shadow of the futuristic Sony Centre it looks more like a modern art installation than a remnant of the Cold War. As time goes by, Berlin seems finally to be getting over the Wall.

But as Anna Funder discovered, the grim monument that once defined the city still looms large in many Berliners' minds. In what
Feb 03, 2014 Brad rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brad by: Aleks Krotoski
Shelves: memoir
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
Almost a stream of conscious narrative, Funder tells the stories the West Germans and the rest of the world were ready to forget by 1996 – the tales of what it was like to live in the German Democratic Republic, where democracy was scarcer than the goods on the shelves. Who needs fifteen kinds of ham, a West German woman asks herself when sheltering an East German couple trying to build a new life in a post-1989 world – but the GDR never wanted to stop people from having fifteen different kinds ...more
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 re ...more
It took me quite a while to get through this book but it's excellent, if harrowing in parts. I know lots about the grimness of the Communist regime in Russia (or at least I should do seeing as I spent 3 years doing a Russian degree). However I knew very little about how it affected post-war East Germany, and in particular the consequences of divided Berlin. This book is a collection of true stories about East Germans who lived under this regime, and their experiences of it. The author managed to ...more
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 ide
Melissa Westbrook
I read this after I read 'All That I Am' by the same author and found I couldn't put it down.

Reading these two novels one after the other was very interesting in a literary context because they both had different approaches to literary journalism.

'All That I Am', while generally speaking a factual recount of the life of a German refugee (during and following the rise of Hitler and WWII) and researched as such, removes Funder largely from the story and relies strongly on secondary sources, rath
"I've been having Adventures in Stasiland. [...] I've been in a place where what was said was not real, and what was real was not allowed, where people disappeared behind doors and were never heard from again, or were smuggled into other realms." This really is a fascinating book, written 7 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany.

Anna Funder discovered that people in the east were aware that they were being manipulated. A propaganda channel, 'The Black Channel' was b
Ely (Tea & Titles)
Jul 06, 2013 Ely (Tea & Titles) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ely (Tea & Titles) by: Literature teacher
Originally posted at

Usually this isn’t the type of book I’d review at all- a school book and non-fiction? Puh-lease, these are probably my two least favourites thing in the world. Oh but I was wrong.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a history nut, honestly I am, especially history to do with World War Two and the Cold War and especially, especially German history in these periods. This is why this book interested me in the first place, then I heard we’d
Susan Oleksiw
I picked up this book thinking it was a collection of stories that might be as good as the story behind the movie THE LIVES OF OTHERS. When I realized it was memoir/report about what life had been like before the wall fell, I was even more interested. Funder meets various people in East Berlin and other cities that were part of the GDR, including members of the Stasi, and interviews them. She also visits one of the prisons, and sees the torture cells. It's very chilling. There is nothing in crim ...more
Lyn Elliott
The book was a landmark for me. Its portrayal of the horrors of living in East Germany under the repressive regime of the Communist party is a much needed reminder of what it means to have no freedom of belief, speech or action. Funder's approach has combined the research of a historian with the personal stories that bring acute insight into the effects of endemic spying, reporting and punishment on individuals and families, as well as on the whole structure of a society.
Reading this made me re
Jan 27, 2015 Joey rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
I had really high hopes and expectations with regard to this book. I thought it would be an insider's look into the seedy, corrupt, disgusting practices of the East German secret police. Instead, it's a tired and thinly-worn collection of super-boring and petty tall-tales from random people that haven't been fact-checked or verified in any way.

The author's style of writing is particularly grating. As I already alluded to, she breathlessly reports these stories from random people who she meets t
I'm italian, but I'm currently living in Rostock, which is the ex-East Germany (and also mentioned a couple of times in this book). My mom grew up in Germany, but in Cologne, so all my knowledge about the wall and the GDR when I was young was something like "there was this wall in Berlin, and on the other side there was a dictatorship", and I didn't care to expand it much until I went to Berlin in December 2013. Frankly, it shook me a lot, seeing pieces of wall here and there, thinking how diffe ...more
OMG! I visited GDR in Berlin, Potsdam and a couple of smaller places within GDR in 1983. I'm sure glad I didn't read this non-fiction account from GDR citizens first. I was about 34 years old at the time and was average polite to the soldiers that followed us everywhere, although I knew they hated us. All you had to look at was the eyes and hear the curt replies.

But Miriam's story in this, especially hers! I knew every 6th person was a ideologue spy and every attempted cross was meet with gun f
The writing and the subject matter made me feel so much and question so much of my own education. When we study the Cold War at AS/A Level, this is something we never learn about; we never discuss and our education and understanding of the larger world is lesser for it.

Funder is an impressive voice and a wonderful curator of these difficult, heart wrenching experiences and voices. I kept thinking back to the wonderful film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) that so deftly dealt with th
Fascinating and moving story about GDR and the role of the Stasi told through the personal stories of victims and perpetrators. I like the way Funder inserted herself into the story, acting as our peronal guide. For my full review, please see Whispering Gums:
I was looking for books that bring to us the kind of life in the East Germany. Yes there are many but I still was dubious about the content.

To all who are interested in this period of time in German History, this book is fantastic. The author conducted herself interviews, both the Stasi people and ordinary ones, and so she could convey to us the life they were living through in a complete surveillance. Moreover, the writer was visiting sites that had been the regime’s , ex; prisons, museums, of
In this land
I have made myself sick with silence
In this land
I have wandered, lost
In this land
I hunkered down to see
What will become of me.
In this land
I held myself tight
So as not to scream.
- But I did scream, so loud
That this land howled back at me
As hideously
As it builds its houses.
In this land
I have been sown
Only my head sticks
Defiant, out of the earth
But one day, it too will be mown
Making me, finally
Of this land.

Just one powerhouse collection of memories and experiences of a lost world. I'm a
Gwen Burrow
I hadn't even heard of the Stasi before booking a hotel in Berlin which boasted about once being the Stasi headquarters, just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie. So I read up on them.

You are not your own. Your job, your marriage, your life can end in an instant. Your newborn son is dying with a crushed diaphragm in the hospital, but you can't see him unless you tell us how your friends were trying to escape. Two plus two equals five. You love Big Brother.

I'd thought that that was just 19
I don't care what Anna Funder says: I thought "The Lives of Others" was a really touching movie. But she's got Cold War street cred, as this book demonstrates. Funder tracks down and interviews both ex-Stasi members as well as civilians who suffered from the restrictions and tyranny of Cold War Berlin. Funder's interviews reveal the pride, pettiness, and indignation of many of the interviewees in the former category, at the same time exposing these individuals, often faceless governmental employ ...more
Anna Funder has a passion for her subject material, and that's both the book's boon and it's very slight failure. She takes you by the hand and walks you into a world of such insanity you can't believe it is real, but the stories she relates are so simple and so human, it hits you like a horse shoe punch. Her empathy for the people and their suffering tears at your heartstrings.

But at times she also gets carried away and the writing wanders into tabloid editorialising. I really didn't need to be
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merging editions 1 10 May 03, 2014 09:57PM  
  • The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989
  • The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape
  • Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee
  • The File : A Personal History
  • Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History
  • What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933
  • Five Germanys I Have Known
  • Berlin 1961
  • Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-45
  • A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary
  • The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century
  • Wolf Among Wolves
  • The Year that Changed the World: The Untold Story Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall
  • The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall
  • Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-41
  • The Wall Jumper: A Berlin Story
  • Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy
  • Defying Hitler
Anna Funder was born in Melbourne in 1966. She has worked as an international lawyer and a radio and television producer. Her book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall, won the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize. She lives in Sydney with her husband and family.
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“I like trains. I like their rhythm, and I like the freedom of being suspended between two places, all anxieties of purpose taken care of: for this moment I know where I am going.” 55 likes
“I remember learning German - so beautiful, so strange - at school in Australia on the other side of the earth. My family was nonplussed about me learning such an odd, ugly language and, though of course too sophisticated to say it, the language of the enemy. But I liked the sticklebrick nature of it, building long supple words by putting short ones together. Things could be brought into being that had no name in English - Weltanschauung, Schadenfreude, sippenhaft, Sonderweg, Scheissfreundlichkeit, Vergangenheitsbewältigung.” 15 likes
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