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Stasiland

Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall
Narrated by: Denica Fairman
Length: 10 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (294 ratings)

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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

Critic reviews

"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)

"All this and much else comes wonderfully to life in Funder's racy account. The real heroes of the book and of the resistance are Miriam and her murdered husband Charlie. Miriam, a reluctant citizen of the GDR, whose story runs as a central strand throughout this gripping book, has reason to be bitter. East Germany cannot die for her while its bogeymen are still living in the same flats and drinking in the same pubs."( The Guardian)

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

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Performance

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Story

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Richard
  • ABINGDON, United Kingdom
  • 21-01-14

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

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

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

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Chilling reminder of the cold war years.

I've been to Berlin twice, once in the early 1980's, at the hight of the cold war, and once in 2014, when the wall is no more and icons from the cold war are displayed as museum pieces. I listened to this account to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, to understand better what the fall of the wall meant to those living in the East. The book didn't disappoint in this respect. The stories within it were chilling . The account of ex-Stasi men were also interesting, as is the nostalgia for some of the more humane aspects of the regime. However, I found it took a while to get into the narration- which at first I found fairly flat. It was fairly patchy, some of the characterisations, especially of men, did nothing for me. Likewise the faux German expressions. So overall an interesting read, but could have been better produced.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

interesting stories recent history blurring lines

disturbing stories about how terror and compliance are derived from things other than just violence.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • G
  • Leicester, England
  • 14-05-19

Ok I guess

Some interesting stuff in here, but this is a story of one journalist’s visits to the former GDR to research this book.

She’s clearly researched this, but what’s presented here is largely subjective and it’s the life story of a handful of people that lived among the GDR.

I was hoping for something more of a history of the Stasi and it’s influence on the GDR more widely - while there is aspects of this, this is more a deep dive into a few people’s lives. Ultimately it’s the story of her time researching this book and the lives of the people she meets.

I finished this and really enjoyed elements but as a whole it’s not really one I’d recommend.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Could not stop listening!

This book was wonderful. I could not stop listening to it. I loved hearing about the bizarre experiences from former residents or police from the former East Germany. Thank you for an excellent book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful and scary history

Fantastic book which I'd recommend to anyone. Shame narrator can't pronounce basic German words though.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is what history books should be like!

Stasiland by Anna Funder is the real "1984", the greatest study of evil I have ever read. Not the evil of carnage and genocide, but the evil of prejudice, mendacity and ideological expedience. Writing with unfailing compassion and lucidity, Anna Funder does not need to resort to theological language to show how evil extends its suffocating tentacles through every layer of a model atheist society where lies, cowardice and the grim banality of power corrupt and twist minds and intentions in Orwellian ways. The author does not seek to lecture or analyse cold facts and statistics – she meets with East Germans and tells us their human stories that speak louder and clearer than any stats or slogans could ever do. The communist experiment in East Germany was based on threats, secrecy and lies (remember all their now discredited Olympic "achievements"?), and survived by turning one in every three citizens into an informant. Anna Funder shows us what kind of hell it was to live under such control, and why hundreds of thousands of exhausted East Germans voted with their feet when the Wall cracked. A lesson in history that should never be forgotten, impeccably narrated by Denica Fairman.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jane
  • 27-01-10

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Wallen
  • 20-04-11

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Alexis
  • 16-03-11

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gallantly Rabbit!
  • 22-01-11

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Simone
  • 27-05-13

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Vicki
  • 02-10-12

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

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anja Schmidt
  • 21-07-12

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

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Tristin
  • 07-01-14

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.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Tim Sneath
  • Tim Sneath
  • 25-06-19

Good listen if you can get over the accent

This is a book about an Australian woman's experiences living in East Germany and researching the Stasi.

The narrator, on the other hand, has an English accent and was either unable or unwilling to learn the correct German pronunciation of key words and names in the book. This was a real "break the fourth wall" moment for me, particularly when she attempted different regional English accents to portray the various characters in the book. So strange to hear someone speaking with a faux-Cockney accent to represent an East German. Frequently used names like 'Uwe' were mangled into "Ooo-wee' rather than 'Oo-ve'.

If you can overcome this, the book itself is great. Just can't understand why a more appropriate narrator wasn't used.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Young
  • 08-03-19

yup highly interesting story to visit but you...

yep, highly interesting story to visit but you wouldn't want to live there. I can recommend this everybody schoolchildren to Grandma. it's the most human interest story I've heard in a long time.