a massively absorbing series of accounts from beyond the Berlin Wall (the majority of course occurring prior to its 1989 collapse).
These vivid testimonials & recollections are sourced primarily from Romania, Czechoslovakia & East Berlin with the odd foray into Russia for those unfortunate enough to fall foul of the Soviet regime & be condemned to internment in a labour camp. Its an enormously rich bag of characters, experiences & opinions, from the banal, the tragic, the surreal, to the hysterically brutal. From the observational standing of a sociologist & anthropologist, its a riot of drama, with the oppressive & intrusive ideology & circumstantial restriction of the state’s requirements being defied (mostly), endured & contested by its populations with all manner of concealed or incognito ingenuity. The ideology & demands issued through a dogged bureaucratic medium were often so contrary to essential & reality-based human needs & conduct that huge cultural responses of societal & behavioral spin-offs were forged to either avoid or appease the states expectations & attentions. Its another world, & reading of people’s experiences, coping mechanisms, evasion strategies & undermining motions under the Iron Curtain in these unique circumstances makes for some incredible reading & human study.
“Trust is good, but surveillance is better.” – unofficial Stasi moto.
If you are drawn to researching the Stasi, this book has some sensational material. & true to the moment, where the expansion of unacceptable state, private & indeed corporate surveillance is committing so many expanding violations of public trust & privacy, this sphere & environment is definitely in need of your concern & attentions. One of the most memorable happenings, trawled strait out of a movie script, has a young dissident & her Stasi interrogator falling in love during an inquisition after her arrest & confinement. An astonishing transpiration, which decades later resulted in them reuniting & going on to marry.
another superbly valuable tranche of information is concerning the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. There is a lot on this shit-hulk in the book, including his douche-wad wife Elena Ceaușescu (less is said about their execrable alcoholic son Nicu, although his penchant for rape is mentioned briefly). Amazingly, it includes a detailed recounting from the military prosecutor Major Dan Voinea who tried the Ceaușescus & also participated in their execution by firing squad. What becomes apparent with the myriad of descriptions on Nikolae is some of the flaws he shares so closely with Trump. This includes his irrational & chronic hypochondria or “germophobia” (spermophobia being the true technical term). Ceaușescu was a maniac who’s phobia became increasingly deranged, reaching ludicrous levels & requiring ever more ridiculous demands. The other similarity concerns Tramp’s misogynistic tyranny on women’s reproductive rights. The recent deplorable restrictions on abortion & overturning of early terminations in incidents of rape & incest (what a guy) chime with Ceaușescu’s “Decree 770” which outlawed abortion in entirety (as well as refusing to acknowledge the AIDS epidemic). The results were absolutely appalling, & of course, its women that suffered the most from this harmful, reprehensible, shit-brained stupidity that never factored-in or recognized the colossal damage of its results. We can only hope that the vulgarian plague that is the Chump family meet the same fate as Nikolai & Elena.
“The foetus is the property of the entire society. Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.” – Nicolae Ceaușescu
very fine reading, well written & surfeit with field-work phenomena to stimulate solution-based thinking for the current crisis.
Peter Molloy, 2008, Penguin Books, 306 pages