Stasi: a communist tragicomedy
Stasiland (Roca Editorial), by Australian writer Anna Funder, is not an essay that includes any thesis. It is a book of testimonies about the German Democratic Republic.
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Stasiland (Roca Editorial), by Australian writer Anna Funder, is not an essay that includes any thesis. It is a book of testimonies about the German Democratic Republic written in the language of a novel or, in any case, a chronicle, in the one that matters more suffering and tenderness than theory. However, there are very interesting ideas and questions on its pages . For example: Why was the GDR so jealous of the lives of its citizens, why did its secret police penetrate its society much more than any other totalitarian regime? Why were the East Germans the last to rebel against their oppression among all the citizens of communist Europe?
Funland explains that socialist Germany offered its citizens a wonderful moral pact : it convinced them that they had not been the accomplices of the Third Reich, that they had fallen from the right side of history and, therefore, were acquitted of the future . It was the German Federal Republic that was the true heiress of fascism, which was to bear Hitler's faults. The offer sounds delusional and a little funny to us today, but what would we have thought if we were Germans and lived in 1949?
Everything in Stasiland has that tone between tragedy and comedy. Funder dedicates many pages to telling his life in Berlin in 1996, while working on the book, and the picture is nothing like the sophisticated and reveler city we know today. The flat in which he lives is an apartment of former nobility in the Lichtenberg district in the deep east, then abandoned to the rust. Everything is broken, the cold is unbearable, the landlady spends every little time emptying the house furniture (for which, in reality, only charges a few coins) and the floors and walls are covered with eight different layers of linoleum, each one of them of a different brown .
And, around them, ossies are unfriendly and inflexible in their observation of the rules, but, in the long run they always offer a time when they break and give a touching intimacy.
The same intimacy that fuels Stasiland . Through its pages pass victims and executioners, ambiguous characters, v erudges who are, deep down, victims and picturesque characters who became virtuous of the art of survival.
Funder has a podium for his testimonies: it includes Klaus, Miriam and Julia , three victims of the Stasi who also become his friends. Julia, her landlady is a woman of her age, a Berliner still young who, however, seems already damaged for a lifetime. When she was a teenager, she fell in love with an Italian who had arrived in Dresden for a fair. For two years, they got carted and had regular appointments . Julia was pressed by her environment to cut that link with the western world . But, surprise: when the relationship finally ended (the Italian was jealous and controlling and Julia broke up with him), the Stasi called the girl and demanded that she resume her engagement, leave Italy and become her informant. Julia refused and things started happening to her . The university denied him a place, nobody gave him a job, his parents received scandalous information about his daughter's behavior ...
Miriam's case is even more painful. Her story begins in 1968, when the news of the Prague Spring arrives in her city, in Leipzig and she is a naive teenager who believes she can help create a fairer world.With a toy printing press, she launches a hundred pasquines in favor of freedom. He leaves them in his institute. She is caught. She has been arrested for a few days. When he returns to the street, Miriam understands that he paints nothing in his country. He escapes from home, goes to Berlin, buys a map of the city and discovers the most fragile point on the Wall . It's New Year's Eve. Cross one fence, cross another, mislead the police dogs and, when the West is within reach, you trip over a wire and get caught. The treatment he will receive, from now on, will be that of a terrorist.
As for Klaus, rock was his thing. Bad business. When he was a teenager, the GDR launched his own pop music, lipsi (for Leipzig), but nobody was very interested because the dance he promoted was rigid, he did not foresee any hip movements . So Klaus, who lived next to the border and secretly recorded the songs that sounded on the radio stations of the RFA, fell in love with the Rolling Stones and the Animals and set up a band that made invented English versions.
The misfortune began when Klaus and his colleagues began to succeed and to compose their songs in German. The Stasi began to press. He was proposed to get rid of the two most critical members of the group . Klaus refused, but Stasi always won. It turned out that it was Klaus who ended up fired from the group that bore his name. From now on, some clones would touch their successes throughout East Germany.
And Klaus became a neighborhood pub lush , which is where Anna Funder met him. One of the many old punks that can still be seen in the elevated Berlin subway as the last witnesses of another time.
Across the book are the former Stasi agents who answer an ad for Funder's words in a newspaper. There are all kinds. Arrogant, regretful, pranksters . Many of them tell similar stories: the Stasi captured them through blackmail. They were villains but they were also victims.
Some have comic stories. For example: the day the Wall fell, the headquarters of the secret police was filled with agents who were trying to destroy documents. So much work had to the machine that shredded the papers broke. What did you do? Send an agent to the West to buy a new machine.
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