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Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World [Kindle Edition]

Samantha Power
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sergio Vieira de Mello-a humanitarian, peacemaker and state builder -was at centre of the most significant geopolitical crises of the last half-century. Born in 1948, just as the post-World War II order was taking shape, he died in a terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Iraq in 2003 as the battle lines in the twenty first-century's first great polarizing struggle were being drawn.

This is a dual biography: the story of a man who never stopped learning and the biography of a perilous world whose ills are too big to ignore but too complex to manage quickly or cheaply. Even as Vieira de Mello arranged food deliveries, organized refugee returns, or negotiated with warlords, he pressed his colleagues to join him in grappling with such questions as: When should killers be engaged and when should they be shunned? When is military force justified? How can outsiders play a role in healing broken people and broken places? He did not have the luxury of simply posing these questions; he had to find answers, apply them, and live with the consequences.

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'Chasing the Flame is a brilliantly researched biography about an extraordinary man' - Richard Beeston, The Times 'a compelling work, culminating in a brilliant and moving reconstruction of Vieira de Mello's doomed last mission in Iraq' - Rosemary Righter, TLS

Mark Bowden, author of BLACK HAWK DOWN

'a stirring portrait of courage and tenaciously pragmatic idealism'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1426 KB
  • Print Length: 612 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 Oct. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005O127NS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #237,710 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ooops, she's done it again 5 Mar. 2008
Samantha Power seems to love big subjects, and writing big books about them. Following her Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Problem From Hell", she has written a highly compelling and important biography of Sergio Viera de Mello, the UN Mission chief killed in 2003 in Iraq.

A career UN civil servant, de Mello may at first glance appear an unlikely subject for a biography. Yet his was an extraordinary career; and even while working for an often derided institution (unjustly so, as the author is keen to argue), he earned the respect of people across the globe, from refugees to heads of state. On a journey that led him through Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, Bosnia, Congo, Kosovo, East Timor to his untimely death in Iraq, he strove to wed his passion for academic philosophy to his practical experiences, always pushing for better responses to ostensibly overwhelming problems. This was a remarkable life that would, and perhaps one day will, make a remarkable film.

The beauty of the book, though, lies not only in its descriptions of what happened. In Power's eminently capable hands, de Mello's life is also mined for the practical wisdom he accumulated through his reflective and relentlessly self-critical approach to his work. Thus one man's biography is used to explore some of the most urgent dilemmas in the world today. Presented in a final chapter with great intellectual coherence, the result is a series of cogent arguments on how to lift the promise of international cooperation from its current state of uncertainty, contention and mistrust.

The tragedy is that at a stage when de Mello's wisdom is most urgently needed, he is no longer alive to impart it. Yet we are fortunate that Samantha Power has stepped in to the breach. This book will no doubt win prizes; read it now to see why.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars impeccably researched & authored 16 Nov. 2009
By Toby P
This book is highly recommended, to anyone with an interest in international affairs. Its a tremendous work of research on Power's part to convey so much detail of de Mello's life and achievements, in some cases of operations / conversations dating from more than two decades past. The style is uber accessible, exactly right for the subject, and indeed reads like a 500+ page New Yorker article, unsurprisingly given Power's journalistic background and that (possibly) the first public outing of some of this material was in an article in that magazine in January 2008 ("The Envoy").

There is a sadness that envelops the book, of course, which is that everyone knows the denouement before picking it up for the first time, making it both a study of leadership and achievement, and also of tragically wasted opportunity. We are left wondering not just whether he would have been Secretary General one day, but what kind of Secretary General would he have made? Would he have carried on trying to avoid making enemies? Where would that have taken him? Would he have made a better one than Annan, who to me ends the book still slightly inaccessible, ephemeral, as if he didn't really make himself or his insights available to Power, or couldn't bear to, even now.

The other source of sadness of course comes from his life being cut short with so many important loose ends unsecured. The absence of goodbyes, the strong sense of it being the wrong woman on the Brazilian air force jet, there being no shoulder being colder than the one of the UN bureaucracy, that only flew his partner Larriera as far as Buenos Aires because thats what the rules allowed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This book is a masterpiece. Samantha Power brings back to life this titan of humanitarian affairs. It casts a new light on the complexities of humanitarian assistance in a world torn by political conflicts and indifference to human suffering. It offers recognition to one of the most successful international staff members of our times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I learned what to choose in life 20 Oct. 2010
The book is very inspiring. But I learned that being an aid worker and being in UN or NGO is not enough to save the world. We need to be politically aware and think what we as aid workers need to choose while working in the field or head offices as a policy maker. The last chapter is so moving, it makes me think why we should try to choose our assignments rather than being chosen for assignments overseas by others.
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