The Long Nightmare (2007)

The Long Nightmare: My 17 Years as a Political Prisoner
Author: Said Zahari
Publisher: Utusan Publications (Malaysia)
186 pp
ISBN: 9789-6761-1939-3
Available: Select Books

Said Zahari, formerly editor-in-chief of the Malay daily Utusan Melayu, was detained without trial in Singapore from 1963-1980. This is the second volume of his projected autobiographical trilogy and deals with the reasons why he was seen as a political threat, his sufferings in detention, his personal and political interactions with others involved both before and after his time in prison. Said Zahari has received the international Award for Press Freedom.

Originally slated as “The Long Nightmare – My 17 Years of Life in Lee Kuan Yew’s Prison”, the book’s title has since been amended, at the behest of Utusan Publications, to “The Long Nightmare – My 17 Years As A Political Prisoner”. Its contents, however, remains unchanged. The autobiography is the second installation of a planned trilogy by the former editor of the Malay-language daily Utusan Melayu, for whose brief involvement with the anti-colonial political opposition in Singapore culminated in his arrest and detention under Operation Coldstore in 1963.

Said Zahari is the only former long-term political prisoner to publicise his experiences of detention under the ISA in Singapore. His first book, “Dark Clouds At Dawn”, was published in 2001 and is available locally. Zahari’s 17 Years, a documentary made by Martyn See about his years in detention, has been banned by the Singapore Government. In a recent statement explaining the reason for the film ban, the censors said that unlike a book, a film is likely to reach a wider audience and can easily “arouse emotive responses.” Zahari’s 17 Years has since been uploaded for viewing on google video; and then uncharacteristically anchored two weeks later by a public remark from Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew that “all this censorship makes no sense.”

Although Said is now a Permanent Resident of Malaysia, he has retain his Singaporean citizenship. In a recent conversation over the phone, he expressed his wish to visit Singapore soon to promote the book. It is unlikely that the Singapore Government will impose any official ban, but local distributors and retailers may be fearful of carrying the title.

“The Long Nightmare” is published in three languages – English, Mandarin and Malay.

Book Review:
by Abdul Rahman Haji Embong (Mar 2003)

Said Zahari’s previous book:

Dark Clouds At Dawn: A Political Memoir (2001) &
its Review by Francis Seow (

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