Stasiland by Anna Funder – Book Review

I’ve never thought a lot about East Germany and the wall. When it came down, I was quite young and it just didn’t interest me. The Cold War was something I knew a little about but didn’t really think about much. It’s never affected me very much.

I knew that East German was the bad part, where they didn’t have freedom and if you tried to escape, you probably got shot. That was it. In my mind, it was still ruled by Nazis. Of course, when I think about that, I realise how ridiculous that is – of course it wasn’t the Nazis! They lost – the allies won. Then things got divided up and Russia went way communist and that was the whole point of the Cold War.

I also knew of the Stasi – the secret police who spied on everyone and recruited neighbours and students and doctors and priests and everyone to spy on each other. Anna Funder has written a truly amazing book in Stasiland telling some of the stories she found and the people she met from the old East.

Funder interweaves her own story with those of her subjects in a manner which does not feel at all imposing. The stories she tells can be horrible and sad and quite unbelievable. The people telling the stories have often not shared these before, and Funder treats them with gentle compassion, showing a strong care for the people and the stories.

I feel like this book has opened a bit of a Pandora’s Box for me – I want to watch the German film ‘The Lives of Others’ and want to know more – more about the Stasi, more about the puzzle women and more about Anna Funder.