In 1991, after the Wall came down and the archives of Eastern Europe opened up, Timothy Garton Ash walked into the building that housed the files of the Stasi, the infamous East German secret police and asked if there was a file on him. There was - a thick one. In this work Ash describes what was in the file, and the avenues personal, political and historical, which he was led down by it. The book begins autobiographically, but opens out to show how Ash tracked down and confronted those who once pursued and monitored him. He shows how it is impossible to establish the "truth" of history and how the way we act depends overwhelmingly upon the circumstances in which we are placed.
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When Timothy Garton Ash graduated from Oxford in 1978, he went to live in Berlin, ostensibly to research and write about Nazism. But once there, he gradually immersed himself in a study of the repressive political culture of East Germany. As if to return the favor, that culture--in the form of the dreaded East German secret police, the "Stasi"--secretly began studying him. As was Stasi's practice, over the years its study produced a considerable paper trail. After the fall of the East German communist regime, a government apparatus was established to allow those targeted to see their Stasi files, and Garton Ash discovered and pored over his. He then set about to interview the people who made this gross intrusion possible, the several case officers, and the numerous regular-citizen informers. The result is nothing short of a journey into the darkest recesses of the totalitarian mind, taking its place honorably alongside 1984 and Darkness at Noon.From the Inside Flap:
"Eloquent, aware and scrupulous . . . a rich and instructive examination of the Cold War past." --The New York Times
In 1978 a romantic young Englishman took up residence in Berlin to see what that divided city could teach him about tyranny and freedom. Fifteen years later Timothy Garton Ash--who was by then famous for his reportage of the downfall of communism in Central Europe--returned. This time he had come to look at a file that bore the code-name "Romeo." The file had been compiled by the Stasi, the East German secret police, with the assistance of dozens of informers. And it contained a meticulous record of Garton Ash's earlier life in Berlin.
In this memoir, Garton Ash describes what it was like to rediscover his younger self through the eyes of the Stasi, and then to go on to confront those who actually informed against him to the secret police. Moving from document to remembrance, from the offices of British intelligence to the living rooms of retired Stasi officers, The File is a personal narrative as gripping, as disquieting, and as morally provocative as any fiction by George Orwell or Graham Greene. And it is all true.
"In this painstaking, powerful unmasking of evil, the wretched face of tyranny is revealed." --Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0002558238