Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Our November Author: Anna Funder





This month we are reading Anna Funder's Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall and as usual we have a few links to supplement our discussion. The author has a personal website where you can learn more about the author, Stasiland and her latest book, the novel All That I Am.

There are two very useful interviews available to flesh out issues raised in the book, one from Australian Broadcasting (transcript and audio):
I mean when I went on tour there it was very interesting and very fraught. I did a ten-city tour of East and West Germany for the book, and the book was introduced in the Leipzig Stasi ballroom, this massive, literally secret policemen's ballroom, at the Leipzig Fair nearly two years ago now. And in the front row there were some very fierce-looking, Brylcreemed, bomber jacket-wearing clearly ex Party and Stasi men, sitting in a kind of phalanx with their arms crossed, and when they uncrossed their arms, they started furiously to take notes about what I was saying when I was reading from the book, and then when it was opened for question time after the reading, they sort of scuttled out. And you have to wonder why they're taking notes if not to intimidate me or whether they're keeping more files somehow just out of habit. 
Then after they'd left, (this happened in other cities as well) someone would stand up at the back and say, 'These stories, this happened to me, and no-one talks about it here, and why don't they? And why does it take a foreigner to come and do it?' And all these sorts of questions. Or people would be very angry and stand up and say - one woman who was a journalist in the GDR stood up and said to me, 'Why didn't you write about normal life?' I said, 'I didn't find it normal.
And another from Worlpress.org,
One of the biggest questions the book poses is whether it’s healthier (for a person, a group, a country) to remember a painful past, or to try to forget it and move on. Did you come to any conclusions about that? 
I think the question of how useful it is to rework trauma is a very individual one; it’s a balancing act for each person. There’s one school of thought that says you deal with a past trauma in analysis and then you move on, but that’s a fiction we tell ourselves. You don’t just get something out and move on. In a political sense, not a psychological one, I think it’s incredibly important to compensate people who’ve suffered under a terrible regime—until that’s done, there’s no moving on, and it’s a double repression.
In addition to the video above from Deutsche Welle explaining the process for accessing Stasi files today, check out this new Google multimedia resource which presents the fall of the Iron Curtain with curation assistance from German, Polish and Romanian museums.  Finally, this sophisticated animation, also from DW,  recreates the Berlin Wall and explains it's fortifications.
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