Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75 by Robert Yeo
Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75 by Robert Yeo

Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75

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by Robert Yeo


Routes 1940-75 is both a personal and public memoir; it is personal as it records part of Robert Yeo’s life for the first thirty-five years, and it is public as it follows his response to some of the tumultuous events of the period at the local, regional and international levels. In revealing skeletons in the cupboard through letters, diaries, extracts from his poems, plays and fiction, Yeo presents an unvarnished account of one person’s story of his country’s emergence from third to first world. The inclusion of more than a hundred illustrations enhances the intriguing prose.

About the Author

Robert Yeo has published poetry, a novel, staged plays, written essays on cultural policy and theatre, complied anthologies on Singaporean literature and co-written books on the teaching of literature for secondary schools. Currently, he teaches Creative Writing in the Singapore Management University and mentors in the MAP programme of the National Arts Council. In 1978, he attended the famous International Writing Program in the University of Iowa and in 1995 was on a Fulbright Program. For more than a decade, from 1977 onwards, he was chair of the Drama Advisory Committee which helped to develop theatre in Singapore’s four languages and for his ‘services to drama’, he was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1991. His selected poems Leaving Home, Mother were published in 1999 and his three connected plays were published in 2001 as The Singapore Trilogy. The Trilogy is recognized as a seminal work in the development of Singapore Theatre in English.


“Robert Yeo has given us a quirky, intelligent and delightful coming-of- age story set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing post-World War II Singapore. That he chose to do so in both words and pictures makes his memoir all the more fascinating and inspiring.”
— Gretchen Liu, author of Singapore: a Pictorial History 1819-2000

“Robert Yeo’s Routes is a testament to the Chinese proverb: “The journey is the reward.” Herein the reader is invited to vicariously share the rewards of travel in time and place and page. The memoir traces the roots of Yeo’s ancestry, his acculturation, and the genesis of his work over five productive decades, introducing a host of memorable characters along the way. We discover that the momentous events in the history of Singapore—WW II, independence, separation, communist insurrection in Southeast Asia, and the economic miracle — are all intimately interwoven with his rich and varied output. Parataxis of the personal and the national imbue the work with varied and piquant levelsof engagement. Yeo’s place in Singaporean post-colonial literature is singular…”
— George Watt, former Head of Ursula Hall, The Australian National University

“Singapore authorship knows few more consequential players than Robert Yeo. Across a roster of key work he has pursued a writer’s life, his own unique literary guardianship of the word. Best-known work like the poetry of Coming Home Baby (1971), the play Are You There Singapore? (1974) and the novel The Adventures of Holden Heng(1986) each gives witness to a bold and always savvy imagination. The time was wholly right for his autobiography. Routes could not better meet the bill — a text and image account of Straits Chinese lineage, a family home speaking Baba Malay, education from early schooling to the Universities of Singapore and London, sex, travels and romances, an academic career at the National Institute of Education, and always the politicallyaware theatre and other work. This is life-writing to welcome, to relish.”
— A. Robert Lee, formerly of Nihon University, Tokyo

“A very readable and interesting piece of writing — surely of general interest to many Singaporeans. Written in a fluent, relaxed, story-telling style, very appropriate to memoirs about very personal matters. Based largely on recall... a great many of which readers (except the very young) could relate to. In fact, many older-generation Singaporeans (as I) would feel like walking down memory-lane while reading the memoirs. Refreshingly frank and honest.... Presently, most Singapore writings tend to be political and historical: hence about political leaders. This one is largely about the experiences of a Singaporean writer, not a politician. By itself interesting.”
— Yeo Kim Wah, author of Political Development in Singapore 1945-1955

"It takes courage to write on one’s life, but to write so explicitly as well-known poet and playwright Robert Yeo has done in Routes A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75 takes even more courage.
It is a welcome addition to a genre that has been neglected for obvious reasons; Asians are generally reticent, particularly on intimate Routes, Robert has done the opposite; his recollections is highly personal and come complete with details of boyhood peccadilloes, loves and escapades, scenes from his work and career as a teacher and lecturer, and excerpts from his poetry and plays."

— Ismail Kassim, a former Straits Times senior correspondent in Kuala Lumpur and author of A Reporter's Memoir: No Hard Feelings (2008).Read more of this review here

"Routes is an account of Singapore's political and social development over thirty-five years seen not from centre-stage, but at times from the wings, and at others from a substantial distance. It serves as an interesting reminder of the mobility of middle-class Singaporeans at the time, and also ongoing connections between Singapore and the region that are rediscovered in the present."
— excerpt from a review by Philip Holden in e-journal SPORES: New directions in Singapore studies. Philip Holden is associate professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore.

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ISBN: 978-981-08-7536-7
Published: 2011
Dimension: 152mm x 227mm
Extent: 384
Finish: Paperback