Stasiland Sample Essay

1066 words - 4 pages

"You won't find the great story of human courage you are looking for." Anna Funder's great victory is that she does. Discuss.Anna Funder's 2002 work of literary journalism, Stasiland, relates her journey through a "land gone wrong", the German Democratic Republic. Separated by the Berlin Wall and political ideology, East Germans lived under the ubiquitous and omniscient control of the Stasi, the secret police, whose "job it was to know everything about everyone". Throughout her quest, Funder uncovers several stories of courage in the face of such oppression, both in acts of resistance and in sustained displays of resilience, however these acts are individual and ineffectual in toppling the regime. Despite these brave individuals' fortitude, they were unable to weaken the Stasi's power or to incite remorse from them. Regardless, Funder is successful in finding and then assembling an inspirational narrative from these admirable recounts of defiance and thus, she succeeds in her original goal.In a society under constant surveillance, acts of defiance were possible but met with quick retribution by the Stasi. Vocalised by Funder's archetypal dissident, Miriam; "[t]hey break you". Miriam's denunciation as an "enemy of the state" began at age sixteen with her publication and distribution of rebellious leaflets and continued for many years in her attempted escape at Bornholmer Bridge, her deception of Major Flesicher in interrogation and her relentless search for the truth about Charlie's death. The repercussions were also unremitting: incarceration, torture, constant surveillance, restrictions on education and employment and a complete destruction of autonomy. Through Miriam's plight, Funder reminds audiences of the "kind of mortgage [these] acts put on [their] future", evoking compassion for the lasting and unjust suffering. Funder's admiration of Miriam's "big voice" against the authorities is evident as her search for truth becomes intertwined with Funder's own investigation, to the point that Miriam's story frames the book itself. This admiration is paired with Funder's dignified interview with Gunter Bohnsack, the only Stasi man Funder attributes a first name. Bohnsack's rejection of the Stasi's "omerta, a code of honour that rules them" when he outed himself to local media was retaliated with abusive phone calls and social isolation. Through the discovery of such subversive acts, Funder appears empowered to continue with her own task in documenting this "lost world".Not only does Funder celebrate moments of personal resistance, she also acknowledges the power of resilience in surviving the effects of an oppressive regime, a capacity even the most damaged victims have. Frau Paul arguably personifies the human impact of the Wall. Separated from her sick son in the Westend hospital with limited visitation, the GDR's callousness sent Frau Paul to Berlin Ostbahnhof in an attempted escape. Subjected to persistent observation, this culminated in being...

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