Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder

 

Read by Danika Fairman

Description: In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell; shortly afterwards the two Germanies reunited and East Germany ceased to exist. In this book, Anna Funder tells extraordinary tales from the underbelly of the former East Germany, including the story of Miriam, who as a 16-year-old might have started World War III.

Read her two books the wrong way around. This non-fiction is superbly written, and she really does have stories that need relating to help us understand DDR because let’s face it, no matter how many time the history is read the subject remains hard to get one’s head around.

DDR was a paranoid place and awful things happened to ordinary people and Funder has pinned the subject matter smack, bang to the , erm, wall.

I mentioned that I read her books the wrong way around – ‘All that I Am’, a novel based on factual events, did not resound so well, maybe I am just a non-fiction kind of girl at heart.

Astounding read worth five checkpoint-charlies even though there are some flaws.

Surfy Googling yields some interesting piccies:

Alexanderplatz. We stayed in the Hotel up those stairs on the left, and that square was full of Christmas market. How it looks today:

The Tower: A Novel by Uwe Tellkamp

d-piece

Read from July 09 to 13, 2014

 

Translated by Mike Mitchell

Dedication: For Annette and Meno Nikolaus Tellkamp

Description: In derelict Dresden a cultivated, middle-class family does all it can to cope amid the Communist downfall. This striking tapestry of the East German experience is told through the tangled lives of a soldier, surgeon, nurse and publisher. With evocative detail, Uwe Tellkamp masterfully reveals the myriad perspectives of the time as people battled for individuality, retreated to nostalgia, chose to conform, or toed the perilous line between East and West. Poetic, heartfelt and dramatic, The Tower vividly resurrects the sights, scents and sensations of life in the GDR as it hurtled towards 9 November 1989.Uwe Tellkamp was born in 1968 in Dresden. After completing his military service, he lost his place to study medicine on the grounds of ‘political sabotage’. He was arrested in 1989, but went on to study medicine in Liepzig, Dresden and New York, later becoming a surgeon. He has won numerous regional prizes for poetry, as well as the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize for The Sleep in the Clocks. In 2008, he won the German Book Prize for The Tower.

Opening: The pedagogical province: I: Ascent: The electric lemons from V E B Narva decorating the family tree were faulty, flickered on and off, erasing the silhouette of Dresden down stream.

Dresden Castle and Cathedral.

The painting secured for Richard Hoffmann on his fiftieth birthday was entitled ‘Landscape during a Thaw‘ and that title could easily double up as a strapline for this story set at the end of Cold War East Germany.

It took a while for me to get into step with the writing style, yet I am pleased to have persevered because The Tower is a glorious, eye-opening period piece rendered with insight and infinite care. At times the writing reminded me of Celestial Harmonies, and at other times, because of the attention to detail, My Struggle, yet KOK is just another self-pitying, belly-button mining first-worlder who chose to rip apart those around him rather than love and respect those close to him. Here, the uncomfortable circumstances had to be endured and pandered to, for fear of the ever watchful secret services and their boot-lickers.

So yes, similarities spring to mind, however by the end, the discovery is that nope, this little bit of history has never been revealed to me quite as intimately before and I was checking details, dates and images as the story progressed. So to re-cap:

– 896 pages
– challenging writing
– engrossing insights into DDR
– satisfying more than enjoyable

3.5 Dresden Opera Houses

NOTES: ‘They came to Turmstrasse, the main though-road of the district, and from which it derived its popular name of the ‘Tower’.’ (page 12)

re the cover image: ‘he also touched – a superstition, the origin of which was lost – the wrought-iron flower on the gate, a strangely shaped ornament that could often be seen up here.’ (page 19) Meno named it a bee lily, and it is on the gate to the house with a thousand eyes.

‘Bruno, or On the Natural and the Divine Principle of Things’

Christian
Meno (uncle)
Ulrich (Christian’s other Rohde uncle)
Anne – mater
Richard Hoffmann – pater. Surgeon.
Robert – brother

Brezhnev died 1982

Andropov dropped off in 1985

Soft Targets by Stephen Poliakoff

bookshelves: film-only, play-dramatisation, published-1984, under-10-ratings, spring-2014, suicide, slavic, spies, cold-war

Read from April 07 to 08, 2014


Description from cream tv: Entertaining and sumptuously bizarre look at upper-middle-class English life from Stephen Poliakoff, seen through the eyes of minor Soviet official Alexei Varyov (Ian Holm). Living quietly by himself in a west London compound with other Russian journalists and civil servants, Alexei’s rather humdrum life of typing up Time Out-style articles for the Soviet press, with a side-line in posting videotapes of British TV to Russian broadcasters made from the twin VCRs in his flat, is livened up with a hefty dose of Cold War paranoia.

While sending some tapes of Top of the Pops abroad on an Aeroflot charter flight, he’s accosted at Heathrow by upper crust, impetuous foreign office agent Harman (Nigel Havers) who, after a rather showy demonstration of the reasons he was, entirely coincidentally, at the airport, drags Alexei off in his car to the early Sunday morning remains of a party at a Hampstead flat, where two young women Frances (Celia Gregory) and Celia (Helen Mirren), as well as assorted hangers-on including Rupert Everett, regard the nervous Russian with a mixture of suspicion and condescension.

Helen Mirren
Ian Holm
Nigel Havers

A disappointing number from Poliakoff’s oeuvre: a something-of-a-nothing, star-studded and polished production for BBC’s ‘Play for Today’ series. In later interviews Mirren was rather embarassed at her overt exhibition of how far her elocution lessons had progressed, and it was jarringly noticeable in this play.

Watch Here

3* Shooting the Past
2* Soft Targets
4* She’s Been Away
4* Playing with Trains
3* A Real Summer
WL Joe’s Palace
WL Capturing Mary

he Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels

Read from April 02 to 03, 2014

 

Book 1 – The Notebook

Book 2 – The Proof

Book 3 – The Third Lie

Three novellas rolled into one of the most powerful reads I have experienced about how ordinary people try to cope from day to day in times of war and political upheaval. Does it still have relevance in today’s world? You just have to look at Crimea to arrive at the correct answer to that particular question: within a week the area changed nationality, a perimeter minefield was dug in, barbed wires fences raised, old troops replaced by foreign troops, people executed or gone missing, certain books, songs and flags have become unacceptable, curfews in place and Whoosh!! a time-zone change. I bet the people there have either fled or are having to use new tactics just to survive.

I’m thinking a re-read will be needed now I know the story; a little more attention to detail to see if there were any cracks I could have prised open earlier.

A fantastic trilogy that was utterly jarring on the emotions and galling in its dispassionate cruelty.

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

bookshelves: fraudio, lifestyles-deathstyles, nonfiction, spring-2014, published-2012, cold-war, slavic, tbr-busting-2014, totalitarian, military-maneuvers, newtome-author, history, bullies, casual-violence, gangsters, recreational-homicide, rid-the-world-of-tyrants

Read from March 02 to 04, 2014

 

rosado mp3

Description: At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union to its surprise and delight found itself in control of a huge swath of territory in Eastern Europe. Stalin and his secret police set out to convert a dozen radically different countries to Communism, a completely new political and moral system. In Iron Curtain, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Anne Applebaum describes how the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were created and what daily life was like once they were complete. She draws on newly opened East European archives, interviews, and personal accounts translated for the first time to portray in devastating detail the dilemmas faced by millions of individuals trying to adjust to a way of life that challenged their every belief and took away everything they had accumulated. Today the Soviet Bloc is a lost civilization, one whose cruelty, paranoia, bizarre morality, and strange aesthetics Applebaum captures in the electrifying pages of Iron Curtain.

Cassandra Campbell reads

I encounter this as a salute to Ukraine.

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”― Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays

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