In This Review

The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew
By Lee Kuan Yew
Prentice Hall, 1998, 680 pp.

One of Asia's most famous statesmen, Lee Kuan Yew has long been renowned for his crisp opinions and sharp analytical mind. With this first volume of his autobiography, he also establishes himself as an engaging storyteller. An outstanding student from a middle-class, English-speaking home, Lee's education was interrupted by the Japanese occupation in World War II. After a stint as a black-market entrepreneur during the war, he made his way to England following the Japanese surrender and convinced Cambridge University to admit him. Upon passing the British bar exams, he returned to Singapore and soon became enmeshed in the complex politics of independence while fighting -- and sometimes exploiting -- the Communist Party.

His story, told in vivid detail, focuses on his dream of uniting Singapore with Malaysia. Lee bitterly recounts his disappointment over Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's decision to expel Singapore from Malaysia. While gracious toward the Tunku, Lee harshly appraises other politicians in Kuala Lumpur. His remarkably in-depth character analyses mean that volume two -- which will describe a whole generation of world leaders -- will command great interest. Possibly mindful of this prospect, 26 former presidents, secretaries of state, prime ministers, and foreign ministers have already provided blurbs of unstinting praise for Lee. The praise is well deserved; the readers will come away feeling that they have come to know an exceptionally brilliant political man.