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"An invaluable document for our time, bravely and beautifully written. A chilling portrait of treachery and compromise that will not let me go."--John le Carré
In 1978, fresh out of Oxford, Timothy Garton Ash set out for Berlin to see what he could learn from the divided city about freedom and despotism. As he moved from west to east--from Berlin glamour to Berlin danger--the East German secret police, the so-called Stasi, was compiling a secret file on his activities, monitoring his Berlin days and nights and tracking his growing involvement with the Solidarity movement in Poland.
Fifteen years later, with the Wall torn down and Berlin now unified, Garton Ash visited Stasi headquarters to find his file. The thick dossier he was given forms the basis for this real-life thriller in which he traces and confronts the German friends and acquaintances who informed on him, and the officers who hired them. Behind Stasi reports of suspicious meetings we discover the love affairs, friendships, and formative intellectual encounters that actually occurred. And behind a baffling web of lies, half-truths, and forgotten stories we find a forty-year-old man spying on his younger self.
"Amid the ghost of secret Germany," he writes, "I was searching for the answer to a personal question: What is it that makes one person a resistance fighter and another the faithful servant of a dictatorship--this man a Stauffenberg, that a Speer?" And he forces us to ask: Which would I be?
"The File is by far the wisest and most penetrating study of a communist informer society ever written by an outsider."
--Neal Ascherson, The Independent
"[Garton Ash's] accounts of tracking down the enemies who betrayed him are riveting, but the names themselves dissolve into a deeply moving portrait of a state built on compromise and human weakness."--The New Yorker
"As this century of murderous utopias draws to a close, we still understand remarkably little about what makes totalitarianism click.... From Alexander Solzhenitsyn to Primo Levi, it is the literary chroniclers who have done the job most persuasively. Timothy Garton Ash is one such chronicler."--The Wall Street Journal