LIVES & TIMES OF HRH
By Herman Ronald Hochstadt
NUS Press/ Hardcover / 222 pages/ $38.52/ Available at bit.ly/LTHRH_HRH
Many a civil servant has a story of a formal-function faux pas, but Mr Herman Hochstadt's is hard to beat.
The former secretary to Singapore's founding premier Lee Kuan Yew was at a dinner hosted by India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when he realised the zip of his trousers had given up the ghost.
He quickly tucked his table napkin into the top of his trousers to cover it up. Mrs Gandhi rose to propose a toast and everyone followed suit, Mr Hochstadt included.
He ignored Dr Toh Chin Chye, then Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister, trying surreptitiously and desperately to signal him. He received a tongue-lashing from Dr Toh later in private, but preserved his modesty.
Such colourful anecdotes pepper the 87-year-old's memoir, which many people had pestered him to write since his retirement and to which he finally got round about two years ago. "Best be done with it before I leave this world," he says.
The book relates the history of Mr Hochstadt's Eurasian family, from the founding of the Singapore Casket Company by his paternal grandfather John Hochstadt to the deaths of his maternal grandparents, John and Helen Phillips, as prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.
Much of the book is devoted to Mr Hochstadt's own years in the civil service, including his time as the late Mr Lee's secretary from 1962 to 1965, when Singapore seemed to "pop out of Malaysia like a champagne cork, but minus any celebratory froth", he writes.
Working for Mr Lee was so stressful that Mr Hochstadt at one point attempted to resign.
Mr Lee retorted: "If anyone around here has strain, it is me!"
He added that they had to carry on for Singapore's survival, however, and gave Mr Hochstadt the day off - only to summon him back to City Hall before lunch.
"No matter how stressful it was, he was a very inspiring person to work for," recalls Mr Hochstadt in a Zoom interview. "His thoughts were always for Singapore."
Mr Hochstadt went on to serve in various ministries, including stints as permanent secretary in the Ministries of Education, Finance and Law. He retired from the civil service in 1989 and went on to be High Commissioner to several African nations.
He was married to National University of Singapore chief librarian Peggy Leong, who died in 1991. They have two children.
"What I recorded in the book, I did to reflect, because it was something I was persuaded I should do," he says. "It's part of the story of Singapore."
Edited by Terence Chong
ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute/ Paperback/ 272 pages/ $38.41/ Available at bookshop.iseas.edu.sg
In this timely collection, social scientists expound on ethnicity, religion, class and culture, examining fault lines that often surface as election issues.
In a chapter on political divides, sociologist and former Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh looks at artistic protest and culture war in Singapore, while the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Kenneth Paul Tan argues that the People's Action Party needs to consider embracing diversity as a "big tent" party.
Edited by Zuraidah Ibrahim and Jeffie Lam
World Scientific/ Paperback/ 461 pages/ $29.96/ Available at bit.ly/RebelCity_IL
In this book, South China Morning Post journalists chronicle Hong Kong's year of water and fire as protesters clashed in the streets last year with the Beijing-backed authorities.
From the love story turned homicide that underpinned Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's controversial extradition Bill, through the storm of street violence and arrests to the tensions that remain today, this book seeks to record the city's worst political crisis in decades.
WAVES OF INDEPENDENCE: MEMOIRS OF A MALAYSIAN DOYENNE
By Gunn Chit Wha
Epigram Books/ Paperback/ 192 pages/ $26.64/ Available at bit.ly/WavesI_Gunn
One of Malaya's first female lawyers pens her memoir. Ms Gunn, now 92, recounts what it was like to break barriers in the 1950s, becoming the third female lawyer in 20th-century Malaya.
She became the first elected female Municipal Councillor in Kuala Lumpur, standing in the Petaling Ward, and was appointed the first female State Councillor in Selangor.
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