Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75

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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.



Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75

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“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

"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.


Robert Yeo