What did this mean culturally and psychologically? "Relations between people were conditioned by the fact that one or the other of you could be one of them," Funder writes. "Everyone suspected everyone else, and the mistrust this bred was the foundation of social existence."
The stories that arose in this type of atmosphere range from heartbreaking (parents separated from their ill child for years because of the Wall) to bizarre (the Stasi's collection of "smell samples"). Like the reader, Funder is an outsider in this society, allowing readers to share her feelings and reactions as she learns of the big and small moments of life in the GDR. By recounting events and viewpoints from both sides, she also provides readers a more complete look at and better understanding of the GDR and its residents.
First published in English in 2003, Stasiland won the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize of Non-Fiction in 2004. Yet the stories and the people behind them seem timeless and the book remains as worthy a read today as it did then.