Katherine Verdery analyzes the 2,781 page surveillance file the Romanian secret police compiled on her during her research trips to Transylvania in the 1970s and 1980s. Reading it led her to question her identity and also revealed how deeply the secret police was embedded in everyday life.
With a professional interest in psychology and in the development of her own inner life, Verdery seizes the chance offered by her file to explore her identity ... Nothing is morally simple in this wonderfully candid, observant and diligently self-questioning account ... [an] unforgettable book.
...an extraordinary exploration of her research, reexperienced through the eyes of those who surveilled her ... Coming from such a distinguished academic, Verdery’s brutally honest description of herself, including as a naive and careless young scholar, is stunning. Few books reflect so frankly and so powerfully on the nature and complications of an academic career.
...a memoir with the exciting elements of an espionage thriller ... The best parts of the book are the author’s discussions with the informers and three high-level operatives about why they pretended to befriend the author when their primary objective was to feed information to the Securitate ... poignant detail ... The book generally flows briskly with its many charming, humorous, and intriguing stories, but at times it lapses into dry academic discourse.