Muphyn's Reviews > Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

Stasiland by Anna Funder
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really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, my-books, history-politics, germany, cities-berlin
Recommended to Muphyn by: Leah

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 involved in people's lives, like Miriam's (that was a "nice" story). I enjoyed the personal journey Anna Funder undertakes, the different people she met and chatted to, and I really appreciated her honesty, e.g. about her mother's illness and death.

Of course, what I didn't like so much was some of the blundering generalisations Funder makes - irritating to say the least. A bit more research wouldn't have done the book any harm. Statements like "No-one watched the GDR news" or "Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler... the most hated face of the regime" are just blatantly untrue. I now wonder whether she didn't just write them knowing full well she was generalising but wanting to make a statement. Hm, not sure. But there were quite a few of these ridiculous statements.

But what really irritated me was her claim that the Pioneer Youth organisation and the FDJ Young adult organisation mirrored the Nazi Pimpfe and Hitler Youth exactly!! Fair dinkum! That is a bold claim to make and there's no real backing up. I just found that ludicrous, to say the least.

Perhaps it is because I come from a research background that I would have liked a bit more information on how she collected her data, simply because she reproduces entire conversations she had with some of the people she met. Were they just written down as she recalls them or based on recorded conversations? And if she did record the interviews, I would have been curious to hear about the reactions by people - especially the Stasi men, were they happy to be recorded? Did she take notes the whole time or how did she go about it? Things like that.

Related to this is also the question of translation - obviously Funder conducted the interviews/meetings in German (she's quite a fluent German speaker, as you'd expect of someone who's lived in Germany for many years). Did she translate them, or did someone else do it? What about things that couldn't be translated or are very hard to translate? how did she go about that? and so on. But that's just me, overanalysing things perhaps...

Overall, Anna Funder's book is a great snapshot of different people's lives, and it's great that she managed to portray both perpetrators and victims. Of course, it is too superficial in parts but for people who don't know much about East German history and don't want to read a full-on history book, this is a great introduction!
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Reading Progress

August 6, 2008 – Shelved
August 6, 2008 – Shelved as: non-fiction
August 20, 2008 – Shelved as: my-books
August 20, 2008 – Shelved as: history-politics
October 9, 2008 – Shelved as: germany
October 25, 2008 –
page 47
October 28, 2008 –
page 88
October 31, 2008 –
page 106
October 31, 2008 –
page 129
November 1, 2008 –
page 155
November 3, 2008 –
page 168
November 4, 2008 –
page 195
November 4, 2008 –
page 235
November 5, 2008 –
page 245
Started Reading
November 6, 2008 – Finished Reading
September 27, 2010 – Shelved as: cities-berlin

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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VALERIE Quite a number of times she writes about taking out a recording device to interview, and other times she says she takes out her pen to write the conversation down.

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