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Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World Hardcover – 6 Mar 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 622 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (6 Mar. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713998415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998412
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 5.6 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 527,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'This book fascinates, both because of its subject ... and because of the infinite complexity of the issues Vieira de Mello faced' -- Scott Turow, author of PRESUMED INNOCENT

'a stirring portrait of courage and tenaciously pragmatic idealism' -- Mark Bowden, author of BLACK HAWK DOWN

About the Author

Samantha Power is Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy Practice at Harvard University's School of Government. Her book, "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide (2003), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Power is also the recipient of two National Magazine Awards. A graduate of Yale University and the Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
At 8:45 a.m., on Tuesday, August 19, 2003, five months after the American-led invasion of Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello arrived by car at the headquarters of the United Nations in Baghdad. Read the first page
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Guy Edmunds on 5 Mar. 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By Toby P on 16 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By Christian Dahoui on 8 May 2009
Format: Paperback
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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By Gustavo on 6 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book. I do recommend .Sergio Vieira de Mello was a very important figure in peace works around the world.
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