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Literature / Stasiland

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Stasiland is a 2001 non-fiction novel by Australian journalist Anna Funder. Fascinated by the German language and history, Funder moves to the former East Germany, a land which no longer exists on paper but is still definitely there, to collect the stories from the former German Democratic Republic. She meets with ex-Stasi informers, workers, spies and their victims. The novel questions the human cost of the GDR, the reasoning behind the wall and the point of communism, the twentieth century's experiment on humans.

Tropes shown in Stasiland:

  • Brick Joke: When Karl-Eduard Von Schnitzler is first mentioned by Julia in her story, she mentioned that when she, along with her other students, nicknamed him "Karl-Eduard Von Schni—", due to this only being heard before someone changed the channel. The chapter detailing Anna's interview with him has the latter's nickname as the chapter's title.
  • Broken Bird: Oh so many. The three main ones would be:
    • Miriam: Arrested for putting up flyers, caught. Captured while metres away from escaping over the Berlin Wall and not allowed to sleep for ten days. Jailed for two years. When she got out she was seventeen and a half. And that's just the beginning...
    • Julia: A bright young thing who could speak four languages and wanted to facilitate peace between the USSR and the USA was sent to a far off boarding school and prevented from getting a job — any job — simply because her boyfriend was a westerner. It gets worse for her after the Wall comes down.
    • Frau Paul: Separated from her seriously ill son for five and a half years by the Wall. Arrested for attempting to escape and forced to choose between seeing her son and preventing another escapee from being arrested and tortured. She chooses the escapee.
  • Crapsack World: Sure, there was no homelessness or rape in the GDR. You could even leave your front door open! Mostly because the Stasi could see inside your house anyway...
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: After unification, there was a lot of clashes between the long-suffering Ossis and their Wessi cousins.
  • Gratuitous German: Occasionally, but sometimes the words can't be translated directly into English.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: In-Universe, Hungarian in Julia's letters.
  • Irony: Turns out former Stasi personnel adapt well to capitalism, as the skills used to convince people to turn informant are no different from those needed to convince them to buy things.
  • Justice Will Prevail: Miriam's belief before her first arrest.
  • No Name Given: Herr "Winz", The Italian Boyfriend, Major N.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Stasi raised this to an art form.
  • Posthumous Character: Charlie. To a lesser extent, Mielke and Honecker.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Some of the Stasi men. They were less villified in unified Germany because, well, they were Just Following Orders.
    • This is why unofficial informers were so hated: They didn't need to inform. They chose to anyway.
  • Rape as Backstory: Julia.
  • Selective Obliviousness: When Karl-Eduard Von Schnitzler is asked why he denounced the evils of Western capitalism but didn't do the same for the communist regime, he just brushes this off by saying he wasn't able to change the latter so he concentrated on denouncing the West instead.
  • Soviet Superscience: The doping scandals mentioned in passing.
  • State Sec/Secret Police: The Stasi, or Ministerium für Staatsicherheit.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell