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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  4,150 ratings  ·  481 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 August 1st 1987)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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
Jul 06, 2013 Ely rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ely 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
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
The GDR or East Germany as it was formerly known lasted for just over 40 years. One of the main things that kept it alive for that length of time apart from the Berlin Wall was the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit or Stasi as it was commonly known. The Stasi used every method both legal and illegal to try and keep the people subdued including an army of informers who would track your every move to methods of punishment which ranged from brutal to straight out inhumane. Stasiland by Aussie author ...more
Having no knowledge of the destination before reading this book, Funder's guide to 'Stasiland' provided a compelling insight into life within enforced boundaries, under constant surveillance. Cleverly written so as fact engages like fiction, this book enables you to walk with the East Berliners and consider how you would respond to and resolve the experience of 'Stasiland'. The true stories of individual desperate efforts to get over, under or through the wall in the physical sense and the effor ...more
Ellen Keim
I thought this was an excellent introduction to life in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down. It's mainly about the Stasi (the secret police) and the ways they manipulated people's lives, but it also gives a good overview of what it was like to live in that atmosphere.

The fact that the author is not German was probably a plus because she could be more objective. A former East German might have been more defensive (After The Wall comes to mind) and a West German more critical.

Funder del
This book apparently drew adverse reactions among residents/former residents of East Germany when it was released. It is not hard to understand when you read about what humiliation the East Germans had to suffer under Socialist rule and then to see it in print.

The book is an informative read for anyone who wants to know more about the lives of ordinary citizens of East Germany during the cold war period.

Considering the ratio of government spy/informer to ordinary citizen - it amazed me how anyon
Charlotte Corbyn
Sooooo good. I hope Anna Funder is writing a new book, fiction or non fiction. She is brilliant.
This is a very good book. It reads well and has great interviews and plenty of factual information. Having visited the former east many times and having relative who live there, I have already learned much of want the author had to say.
It is a fine resource for anyone researching the DDR. Had I known about it several years ago, I would have been tempted to utilize some of its information while writing my recently completed novel (On Deep Bachground)which takes place in Leipzig and other sites i
I mostly enjoyed this look at East Germany in the decade after the wall came down. It was especially interesting to me because I remember watching all the events leading to the fall of the GDR unfold. I even have an authentic piece of the wall a college friend brought me from his trip to Germany in the summer of 1990. He swears he chipped it off himself, lol. I was interested to read more about ordinary people from the East and their experiences.
Funder shares stories of people who were persecut
Christine Strawberry-girl
Everyone has heard tales of heroism and tragedy about WWII and the Holocaust. But what stories do you know about life in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany)? This is an amazing journalistic adventure behind the Berlin wall to discover the stories of ordinary Germans who lived through this time, including those who resisted, victims of Stasi surveillance, Stasi employees and agents, collaborators, and more. All of this is told in the context of the author's travels throughout East Germa ...more
Gisela Sophia
What a great read! Just loved this book. A well-observed and beautifully written piece of non-fiction, based on Anna Funder's interviews with people who used to be part of Communist East Germany's Staatssicherheitsdienst - or Stasi for short - the national security service, whose aim was to monitor citizens or residents who represented potential threats to the state - that is, the communist regime.

The Stasi not only had their own professional spooks but also built up extensive networks of citiz
I hesitate to say that this was a light, easy read, although in some ways it was. The weight of the Stasi on Ost Deutschland - the constant, 1984-ish spying that weighed everyone down - is not really something I can describe that way. And the author has her moments of sinking into it.

As the title describes, the author collected stories from the Eastern side, which seemed in danger of being lost under the tide of rah-rah reunification. (Which was, of course, a mostly good thing for Ossis. But ig
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merging editions 1 5 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
  • Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History
  • The File : A Personal History
  • Berlin 1961
  • 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
  • What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933
  • Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-45
  • The Third Reich in Power (The History of the Third Reich, #2)
  • The Wall Jumper: A Berlin Story
  • Defying Hitler
  • Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-41
  • Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy
  • Iron Curtain : The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956
  • Wolf Among Wolves
  • Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Extermination, 1939-1945
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.
More about Anna Funder...
All That I Am Everything Precious Courage, Survival, Greed

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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.” 29 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.” 14 likes
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