“ Stasiland demonstrates that great, original reporting is still possible . . . A heartbreaking, beautifully written book. A classic for sure. ”
Claire Tomalin, The Guardian (UK)
“ Unforgettable. ”
Sydney Morning Herald
“ Fascinating, entertaining, hilarious, horrifying and very important. ”
June 27, 2018
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Berlin, Winter 1996
I am hungover and steer myself like a car through the crowds at Alexanderplatz station. Several times I miscalculate my width, scraping into a bin, and an advertising bollard. Tomorrow bruises will develop on my skin, like a picture from a negative.
A man turns from the wall, smiling and zipping up his fly. He is missing shoelaces and some teeth; his face and his shoes are as loose as each other. Another man in overalls, with a broom the size of a tennis-court sweeper, pushes disinfectant pellets along the platform. He makes arcs of green powder and cigarette butts and urine. A morning drunk walks on the ground like it might not hold him.
I’m catching the underground to Ostbahnhof to board the regional line down to Leipzig, a couple of hours from here. I sit on a green bench. I look at green tiles, breathe green air. Suddenly I don’t feel too good. I need to get to the surface quickly and make my way back up the stairs. At ground level Alexanderplatz is a monstrous expanse of grey concrete designed to make people feel small. It works.Continue Reading