Anna in Stasiland


Stasiland, an incredible book by Anna Funder. The italian translation is very good, pity only for the title “C’era una volta la DDR”, which sounds a bit silly, actually.

Funder starts in a casual way to ask people how things were during the DDR years, and she ends up conducting a very intriguing reportage.

Beyond stereotypes and beyond Ostalgie, “between Kafka and Monty Python” Funder contacts victims of the regime and former Stasi officers, Mitarbeiters and talking heads. She visits the places were citizens were detained and subject to police interrogations. She smells the stale air of these rooms, where the odour of terrified people, dossiers, senile power and outright paranoia still lingers.

For 10 years the letters that my DDR penpals and I were writing each other were intercepted, opened with special W-shaped steam devices, read, copied and filed.

My friend Michael went up to the Archive and got the letters, just after the fall of the Wall. Just like those people you see in the film “The lives of others”. Just like the protagonists of Anna Funder’s reportage.

We were teenagers and loved Duran Duran. We were discovering Madonna. I worshipped Radio Caroline, we met over Radio Free Europe.

My friends in Brandenburg and Saxony were longing for freedom. They travelled a lot across the Socialist countries. We had freedom in Triest, but I had never travelled. Freedom meant different things for us.

I wonder if I can go there, and feel the blow, of seeing my letters in a file, imagine them through the eyes of a Stasi zealous Mitarbeiter, filed and numbered, in a box. I have the sinister impression that somewhere, someone knew a lot about me.

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