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Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall | [Anna Funder]

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany. In a country where the headquarters of the secret police could become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their fellow citizens, there are thousands of captivating stories.
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Publisher's Summary

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards, the two Germanies reunited, and East Germany ceased to exist. Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany.

In a country where the headquarters of the secret police could become a museum literally overnight, and one in 50 East Germans were informing on their fellow citizens, there are thousands of captivating stories. She meets Miriam, who, as a 16-year-old, might have started World War III; she visits the man who painted the line that became the Berlin Wall; and she gets drunk with the legendary "Mik Jegger" of the east, once declared by the authorities to his face to "no longer to exist."

Each enthralling story depicts what it's like to live in Berlin as the city knits itself back together - or fails to. This is a history full of emotion, attitude, and complexity.

©2003 Anna Funder; (P)2009 Audible

What the Critics Say

"A brilliant and necessary book about oppression and history...Here is someone who knows how to tell the truth." (Evening Standard - Books of the Year)
"A journey into the bizarre, scary, secret history of the former East Germany that is both relevant and riveting." (Sunday Times Travel Books of the Year)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (145 )
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4.2 (101 )
5 star
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3 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Jane Darwin, Australia 01-27-10
    Jane Darwin, Australia 01-27-10 Member Since 2009

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    148
    ratings
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    238
    78
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    Overall
    "Important book"

    Anna Funder visits what was East Germany, armed with fluent German and knowledge of international law. She listens to the stories of those who endured immense pain at the hand of the Stasi, the regime which replaced Hitler as dictators of this part of Germany. She also listened with undisguised amazement and horror, to the world view and self justifications of some of the Stasi themselves. In Stasiland she portrays a society imprisoned by the notorious Wall as well as webs of betrayal, lies, mental and emotional torture.

    This is neither sensationalist or a horror story. It is an intelligent, measured exploration of the extremes of human nature, from bravery and the capacity for endurance, to the self delusion and cruelty of dictators. It reveals the insidious ways that a people can be controlled through their minds -- in effect, life was simple if everyone capitulated without question to the arbitrary, contradictory, the blatantly ridiculous. In return, citizens were given apparent certainties in housing, employment and health, certainties which some now mourn.

    This is a shared personal journey and the narrator, Denica Fairman, offers a reading that works as an outstanding partnership with Funder.
    Stasiland not only delves into recent history, but places before the reader the realities of human nature that contribute to human society -- from small communities to whole nations.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 04-20-11
    Wallen Danderyd, Sweden 04-20-11 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    185
    ratings
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    86
    53
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    7
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    "Small people crushed by the events of time"

    This book is a valauble addition to the Audible line of books. It depicts how ordinary people - none of them really political activists - acted against the oppression of Communist East Germany. At times it is more suspensful than many suspense novels, even without having had that intention. The portraits are great and you really get to know these people - or at least you wish that you had known them.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexis Oakland, CA, United States 03-16-11
    Alexis Oakland, CA, United States 03-16-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    7
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    0
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    "an excellent book"

    Maybe it is because I too moved to Germany rather spontaneously, and ended up finding so much meaning here, that this book is not only one of the best I have ever ordered from Audible, but is also one of the best books of my experience. For anyone with an interest in modern German history, this book brings so much life and so many thought-provoking examples to the facts and figures of communist East Germany. The book is both emotionally and intellectually superb.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alan Vancouver, BC, Canada 01-22-11
    Alan Vancouver, BC, Canada 01-22-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
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    101
    5
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    "A stunning achievement."

    This penetrating look at life in East Germany, seen from the perspective of an outsider, is saturated in heartbreak, courage and a fractured senses of safety.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tristin Toronto, ON, Canada 01-07-14
    Tristin Toronto, ON, Canada 01-07-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    1
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    "Author's narcissism blights otherwise good account"
    Any additional comments?

    This book is indeed laced with riveting accounts from ex-Stasi and the people they oppressed. You'll hear tense stories of teenage girls sneaking past dogs to jump the wall, meet with greying old ex-Stasi pensioners who reminisce about striking fear into the hearts of their neighbours and get an intimate sense of the surreal details of East German life that are even now being forgotten. But to get to these portions, you'll have to spend hours listening to Ms. Funder describe the inside of her Berlin apartment, detail her urban malaise, outline the workplace tensions at her public broadcasting job, etc. These plodding (and frequent) sections read like passages from a teenager's travel blog, and it's frustrating to think that Ms. Funder decided that the minutiae of her Berlin existence deserved equal billing beside the incredible stories told by her various sources. If a better (and more humble) writer had had access to the sources available to Ms. Funder, this book could have been a Pulitzer Prize winner. But as it stands, this is not the definitive account of East German life you're looking for.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 05-27-13
    Simone St Laurent, Quebec, Canada 05-27-13 Member Since 2006

    Join me on GoodReads too!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    323
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    405
    271
    FOLLOWERS
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    49
    5
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Very Interesting"

    I read this right after reading “The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989” by Frederick Taylor in the hopes that it would give me more of a people’s view rather then a politician’s view of life - and it did. I could have done without author’s story of how she went about writing the book itself, but still – I got what I wanted out of it and enjoyed it very much.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vicki Townsville, Australia 10-02-12
    Vicki Townsville, Australia 10-02-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    2
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    0
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    Story
    "Peeking behind the curtain"
    Where does Stasiland rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I don't often read non fiction so this was a real surprise - it has to rank up there with the best eye-witness accounts of the life experiences of people surviving in such different circumstances from my own. The generosity of of people to disclose such painful, sometimes humiliating experiences is a testament to the Anna Funder's capacity to retell - and in another language!


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Stasiland?

    Walking through the Stasi prison with a victim-guide kept my emotions dancing on hot coals all night.


    Have you listened to any of Denica Fairman’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    What made the performance so good was the excellent pronunciation by Denica Fairman - getting things right. More often a story has been spoilt by the laziness of a performer failing to pronounce names and places correctly. The tone and spareness of the narration fully enabled the engagement of an over-active imagination like mine.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I had to hold my breath when Anna, with brutal insight and honesty, met with each informant.


    Any additional comments?

    I had heard Anna Funder interviewed on radio a couple of times and it took me a few years to tackle the book. Brilliant.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 07-21-12
    Anja Schmidt Denmark 07-21-12 Member Since 2006

    k11923

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "So interesting"
    Would you listen to Stasiland again? Why?

    I seldom read anything twice.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    When one of the main persons are taken in for interrogation about her love letters to a long gone boyfriend.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The great something watching over you


    Any additional comments?

    The narrator is really fantastic.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    LifetimeRoad Deep South 06-12-12
    LifetimeRoad Deep South 06-12-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    62
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    74
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    9
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    "Personal Interviews with former GDR citizens"

    Conversations with citizens of the former GDR. Very little statistical information of the former East Germany. Leaves you wanting much more. "Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea " is a much more interesting book in my view. Beware, Stasiland has some content not suitable for children.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cardis Marina, CA, United States 04-23-14
    Cardis Marina, CA, United States 04-23-14 Member Since 2001
    ratings
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    21
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "boring"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book was not engaging. After many starts and stops, I finally gave up. I was disappointed because I really wanted to like this book.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Anna Funder again?

    unsure


    How could the performance have been better?

    unsure


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    I did not finish it.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 16 results PREVIOUS12NEXT
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  • Madeleine
    London, United Kingdom
    2/12/11
    Overall
    "Great project, well written but underdone"

    I'm glad to hear that Ms. Funder is now writing fiction, because I think she's a good writer but not a great researcher. There has been a trend in the last decade to embrace the inevitable subjectivity of any research by confronting and including researcher's subjective experiences into the account of the investigation. Ms. Funder does this to such an extent that she becomes a central character in the narrative and her reactions, which she writes about very eloquently, tend to overshadow the product of her research. So the book becomes, not a documentation of the experiences of people who were either in the Stasi or victims of it, but of her reaction to meeting them.

    I felt this book was okay, but simply did not have enough meat in it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Richard
    ABINGDON, United Kingdom
    1/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "More of a diary than a study"

    Well written and read but the book is more about the writer and her time in Germany trying to be a non fiction writer. Way too much filler where the writer describes how she feels, what she's thinking or how the light shines on this and that. There is some interesting stuff in there but its not detailed and not based on fact in the main.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. P. J. Curt
    Sale, United Kingdom
    11/1/11
    Overall
    "Different approach"

    This is a great read and uniquely written. Whilst you do learn much of the Stasi workings and general DDR state it is told by way of interesting encouters between the author and former East German subjects and Stasi members. Despite the nature of the subject matter it flows and is not the heavy read you may expect. You would need some level of interest in the times but it is a fresh take on the historical text. Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Paul S. Turner
    birmingham ,england
    6/22/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Anna and the wall"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    As westerners we have no idea how free we are till you start learning about the Stasi


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Stasiland?

    Tunnels and the escapes


    Have you listened to any of Denica Fairman’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    First book of hers


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    We are watching you!!!


    Any additional comments?

    Yet another great book that just lasts long enough

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen W
    Hamburg
    6/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A little disappointing"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Frankly there wasn't much in this book that I didn't know already. In fact I have heard a great deal more in German magazines.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    You cannot change the story, but as another reviewer already elquently stated, there needs to be more meat on this particular bone.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    This really is something that I fail to understand. If I was the author or publisher or indeed the narrator, I would take the trouble of finding out how to pronounce German words. One of the key characters is Uwe. Every time the narrator got it wrong it irritated the hell out of me.


    Did Stasiland inspire you to do anything?

    No, the whole Stasi story is peculiar to the Germans but the book did not tell me anything new


    Any additional comments?

    No, I really wanted to tlike this book and it disappointed me somewhat.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amanda
    Gisborne, Australia
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Gripping"

    This is a tale of fact being stranger than fiction. Funder does a great job in giving an insight into the machinations of the Stasi in the DDR. Compelling listening.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tony
    Southport, United Kingdom
    1/28/10
    Overall
    "More a Slepyland than Spys and slipping free"

    Story told by old people years after the events and not well researched. Every one seams to remembers twitching curtains and people in the shadows. The truth is too shrouded in folk stories and better done by TV and other books written years ago.
    A number of flat and not that interesting tales told by old forgetfully East Germans looking for a reason why they did not try and get out when they could, or how heroic they where against the evil Starsie communists.
    Having travelled through this region when a young boy I have heard it all before in greater detail and through the fog of Vodka and cigarettes. Better buy a ticket to Berlin and find some old madame get her drunk and listen to her tales they will be far more interesting and spiced up by the venue. Or buy this audio book and be disapoint by this tale told by a lady with nothing to do

    5 of 15 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-7 of 7 results

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