"One of them was up a ladder searching the bookshelves when he found Orwell's Animal Farm, which, of course, was blacklisted. We held our breath as he pulled it off the shelf."

Despite statements to the contrary in the East German constitution, as a one-party state the authorities had the power to control the media and printing industries. All publications were subject to government controls: criticism of communism or the GDR was not tolerated, along with taboo subjects such as homosexuality, pornography and any portrayal of East Germans as alcoholic, violent, depressive or suicidal.

The books of George Orwell have enormous resonance in this era. In this interview from The Independent (extract below), Anna Funder relates a telling detail of Stasi chief Erich Mielke's own private fascination with Orwell.

            The people of the GDR lived through their own private Nineteen Eighty-Four every single day. Funder describes Orwell's book as "like a manual for the GDR, right down to the most incredible detail". The party, if not the proles, knew that very well. She remembers that the much-dreaded Stasi chief Erich Mielke even managed to renumber the offices in the secret-service headquarters. "His office was on the second floor, so all the office numbers started with '2'. Orwell was banned in the GDR, but he would have had access to it. Because he so wanted the room number to be 101, he had the entire first floor renamed the mezzanine, and so his office was Room 101."

On page 133, Anna Funder writes about her interview with key Communist propagandist, Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler who professes a deep dislike of the television programme, Big Brother. Funder wonders whether it is the Orwellian overtones of the show that makes it especially repugnant in his eyes.