Stasiland

Stasiland Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Funder returns to Berlin from Leipzig. When she enters her room, a voice shouts, “Don’t be frightened.” The voice belongs to Julia, the person from whom Funder rents the room. She explains that she’s removing some bookshelves to take to her new place. Funder is too tired to talk to Julia, so she wishes Julia goodnight and goes to bed.
The chapter opens with a “fake scare,” like in a horror movie—Funder thinks she’s facing a burglar instead of her sub-letter. Perhaps this shows that Funder is jumpy and nervous after her interview with Miriam, and still imagining the paranoid world of a surveillance state.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
The next morning, it’s very cold—the heating has cut out. Funder surveys the room where she’s staying. It’s bare and ugly, and Julia repeatedly shows up to take the remaining items away. The apartment used to be beautiful, but during the Communist years it was converted into a small dormitory. She considers that the room contains all of life’s necessities, but “not a single thing … of beauty or joy”—and in this sense, it’s a lot like East Germany itself.
The apartment building in which Funder stays is itself a symbol of the ongoing legacy of the East German state. East Germany, it’s often said, was responsible for making German culture colder and crueler—and in this sense, Funder’s ugly, cold apartment is the perfect symbol of the East German ethos.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
The Parliament building for the East German government was once the Palace of the Prussian Emperors. Now that the East German government is no more, there’s a debate over what to do with the building. Nearby lies the neighborhood of Mitte, through which Funder now strolls. She thinks about Miriam and about the Stasi. She wonders what it must have been like to be a Stasi officer, and then suddenly be left without any authority. She puts an ad in the Potsdam paper, asking for former Stasi officers who’d be willing to talk to her, with anonymity guaranteed.
Just as the current German state has converted old East German buildings into new buildings (the Stasi HQ is now a museum, for example), the old East German state converted much older buildings into government offices. This is a common technique with the arrival of a new state—by appropriating and reshaping an old symbol of power, like a building, the new state asserts its own power.
Themes
Authoritarianism and the East German State Theme Icon
Surveillance and Privacy Theme Icon
Grief and Memory Theme Icon
Museums and Artifacts Theme Icon