To write this non-fiction work about life in the former East Germany, Anna Funder interviewed former Stasi officers and the people they surveilled. Described in the National Library of Australia record as 'A book of travel, history and biography that reads like a documentary novel,' Stasiland takes 'a deliberately subjective and "literary" approach' to its material with an 'emphasis on a sympathetic authorial persona as the source of the reader's perspective' (Susan Lever 'The Crimes of the Past: Anna Funder's Stasiland and Helen Garner's Joe Cinque's Consolation'. Paper delivered at the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) conference 2006).
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 11 (English Unit 1 and Unit 2)
change, how literature plays witness to history, identity, interplay of authority and identity, Power, rebellion, time
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Literacy, Personal and social
'Prior to writing A Wife’s Heart (Davies 2017), I did not see myself as a flâneur. I walked in public spaces, but I often hurried rather than strolled. When I did slow, I found myself having spontaneous conversations with strangers. A flâneur seemed too leisurely an observer of the crowd; too detached. An exegetical examination of my work, however, together with a historical understanding of the flâneur, led to the realisation that flánerie was a motif integral to my writing process, and to creating a narrative of timelessness over a century of divorce and single parenting. My moments of flânerie, punctuated with engagement among the crowd, also change the dynamics of the flâneur to a dialogic and empathetic experience. A similar flânerie is evident in the auto / biography Stasiland (Funder 2002), which explores the pervasive presence of East German history after Germany’s reunification. I suggest that the fluid mindset of a flâneur suits the writer on a quest (Marr 2016-2017), augmenting specific interview, archival and site research practices with sensory awareness and a dialogic empathy in such auto / biographical works. I further argue that the slash between the auto and biography is dissolved via the flâneur becoming a motif of timelessness.' (Publication abstract)
'Mobilizing Jacques Derrida's concept of the "trace" and Funder's reference to trains in the text, we position Funder as a moving vessel, traversing geographies (both physical and psychological) as she seeks to contain memory. Since the initial publication of Stasiland in 2002, it has attracted a great deal of praise and aroused some controversy. Funder tells the story of East Germans affected by the Ministry for State Security, commonly known as the Stasi (an acronym for the German Staatssicherheit), effectively the "secret police" wing of the GDR government, an organization whose name has become shorthand for an insidious, totalitarian form of surveillance and punishment (Grieder xvii ). Funder speaks with the harassed and the harassers, years after the reunification of Germany, immersing herself within the narrative, creating a work that is equally about the lives of Germans as it is about Funder's experience: her day-to-day life in the country researching the text and her writing process. Brison suggests in her work that when "trauma narratives" are "witnessed," or listened to, they become "speech acts of memory," which work as "re-making the self' (39). [...]these fictions that have previously been destructive to one's psyche can be reworked and effectively reclaimed:' (Publication abstract)
'To understand their characters' border crossings - historical, transnational, personal, physical and generic - Australian writers, Anna Funder and David Sornig researched their Berlin settings in situ, in literature and through writing praxis. Berlin crossings can be mapped from East to West and ideologically from left to right, through traumatic national history, biographies and authorial backstories.' (Introduction)