My old book: Tom Brake MP

Written by 21 Oct 2013 on 21 October 2013 in Culture
The Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington and deputy leader of the House of Commons tells us why he loves Stasiland by Anna Funde

A book that made a real impact on me is Stasiland, by Anna Funder. 

Her book documents how the East German Secret Police infiltrated and polluted every aspect of East German life. Man and wife, work colleagues, friends were all encouraged or blackmailed into spying on each other. The East German authorities went to the extreme of building a library of glass jars. These held items of clothing (stolen without their owners’ knowledge) belonging to suspects they might subsequently want to track by sniffer dog. Nursery teachers quizzed their youngest charges and reported their parents if the toddlers had watched banned West German children’s programmes.

The book reinforced the message I was given in 1983, during a European cycle tour. This took me behind the Iron Curtain, teaming me up for some of my journey with Hungarian cyclists, whose main desire was to be able to access and discuss information about what was happening around the world, without fear, persecution or surveillance. 

It reminds us all that, in our living memory, a whole European country was turned into a surveillance state. Worth thinking about in the age of Prism and Tempora!

Tags: Issue 62, Tom brake

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