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The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Fred Cuny
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The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Fred Cuny

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  226 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Like a Graham Greene novel come to life, this biography tells the mesmerizing story of Fred Cuny, the "Master of Disaster"--a complicated man who disappeared in the scariest place on earth. of photos.
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 18th 1999 by Doubleday (first published 1999)
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The title refers to Fred Cuny, a Texan who spent little time worrying about his own life and instead was obsessed with saving the lives of refugees and war victims around the world. Cuny began as an outsider in the international relief community, but his innovative ideas eventually overcame his brash attitude to revolutionize the profession.

International war correspondent Scott Anderson has written an interesting biography of a modern hero. The first half of the book is spent on Cuny's life up u
One of the most well written nonfictional accounts of a fascinating man and an even more fascinating story. This book delves into every facet of humanity; from the personal and emotional journey of an ambitious, talented and enigmatic man, to the tangled and unpredictable world of geopolitics.
Donna Kubiak
A great book about a conflicted man who had controversial, but working, ideas about relief work. This book made me realize that Chechnya is a place where nothing is sacred. I couldn't put the book down.
I actually couldn't finish this book, which is rare for me. Too much talk about what a wonderful man the hero was, and too little action.
A remarkable story of the genius of one man whose passion saved thousands in some of the most desperate parts of the world. From natural disasters to war-torn venues, Fred Cuny was there bringing relief and constructive help in a way no other organization had done before. His passion took him to Chechnya and then took him back a second time. It appears he had a premonition of the dangers lying ahead - on his second mission Fred and his three companions disappeared. Not even Fred Cuny could survi ...more
Why do I not know about many of the events that took place in the 90's? Is it because those are my "teenage" years, and teenagers are prone to self-absorption and hence don't look around them? Or is it more a reflection on the United States at the time? When we were being led by a charismatic and "all is well in Zion" leader so we didn't know about this horrible things that were going on?

I'm not sure about that, but this book it about one man who constantly went and put himself in harm's way. A
Craig Dube
This book was interesting, but also very hard to follow. The story is about Fred Cuny, "The Master of Disaster", a bigger-than-life Relief executive that went missing in Chechnya in the early 90s. Coming from Texas, Fred had long wanted to make a name for himself and did with his outstanding work in Somalia, Bosnia and other areas of mass devastation and disaster. Initially starting out reacting to weather and nature related events, Fred soon moved over to those areas that were beset by man-made ...more
Chris Bartholomew
An interesting story about someone I had never heard of before. Fred Cuny was head of an NGO going to strife torn areas of the world to facilitate the delivery of aid. A bit of a maverick he made a name for himself by making things happen where other well know aid organizations were stymied. He disappeared during the Chechnya-Russian war of the 1980's. Presumed dead, this book is mostly a story of the attempt to relocate him and in the telling is a revealing look at the Chechnya war and the psyc ...more
Amazing. Quite a story, reads like fiction. A true hero.
Dec 05, 2007 Jeanne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dad
I've always been curious about the story of Fred Cuny, and this book seems to capture it quite well. Well written and engaging - read it on the plane from Khartoum back to DC. I keep coming back to the author's comments about what a crazy place Chechnya is - how you can never really figure out exactly what's going on, who's telling the truth and who's lying, what the hidden agendas are, etc. Reminds me of Sudan. Anyway, I was also surprised at how many OTI-ers are quoted in the book. Can't wait ...more
Loren Steffy
I lived in Dallas during the time of Fred Cuny's disappearance, but I never knew the details of the story. Scott Anderson weaves together a compelling narrative that makes a strong case for his conclusions of what happened to the "Master of Disaster." In some ways, the book reminded me of James Neff's "The Wrong Man." While different topics, both authors use investigative journalism to pose an answer to a lingering question. The difference: Anderson conducted his research in one of the most dang ...more
Fascinating narrative journalism about a complex humanitarian loner who went missing in Chechnya in the late 1990s. Chechen geography and geopolitics tripped me up a few times, but the narrative thread was strong enough to keep me reading. And there are a few absolutely stunning bits of writing -- like, stop reading, get the attention of the person next to you and read a few sentences out loud. That good.
Whoah..... Chechnya is one messed up place. Fred Cuny tried to help out. Well, as you know tell from the title, it kinda didn't work. Having worked in the non-profit humanitarian field I had a basis of how hard it is to work in developing countries. But I have to give kudos to Mr. Cuny for all the effort he put into trying to make life better for quite a lot of people. I only wish he would have succeeded so he could have shared all that he knew with others beyond Chechnya too....

I loved this book. I learned so much about Chechnya, about disaster relief, and about the million ways beauracracy ruins the world. As a biography of Fred Cuny, it is first class. Anderson's also a great writer, and I was incredibly impressed by the structure of the book. There's also something so trustworthy about his voice. Whenever he told me something, I believed him. That doesn't happen to me much lately with nonfiction.
Mark Sequeira
An excellent book about the real terrors of trying to work in or near Chechnya showing it is not just the lack of trust, confusion, kidnapping and avarice that is dangerous but the arbitrary nature of chaos itself.

There is a PBS special that came out some time ago about Fred Cuny and this book is excellent at telling his story and explaining the complexity and fear inherent in the region.
I didn't know a whole lot about Chechnya and this was an interesting and different take on that war. Instead of the typical: this side did x, which caused the other side to retaliate by doing y, etc, this was the humanitarian's perspective of how do we save the people caught in the crossfire. A captivating read though it dragged a little bit towards the end.
Although this gets off to a slow start in the very typical "when Johnny was four he wanted to be an astronaut," kind of way, by page 100 or so a firsthand account of disaster relief begins to emerge that pulls the reader, forcibly if necessary, directly into Fred Cuny's world. By the time his story reached Chechnya, I couldn't put the book down.
Rick Caster
A heart breaking book about a man who I am proud to have called my friend. Scott Anderson did very well telling the story of Fred's life, adventures, and accomplishments. Not so well in telling of his death in Chechnia, which is still somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Great Read. An amazing story. It has a little bit of everything, coming of age, humanitarian aid, disasters, romance and child rearing (kind of), mystery, war, geography and the CIA plus it is written and researched well and easy to read in one sitting.
The story of one of the (controversial) visionaries of humanitarian aid who disappeared (and was almost certainly assassinated) in Chechnya. Fascinating and illustrative of the complexities of operating and innovating in the field.
You begin to understand the madness that is Grozny and the conflict with Russia. I enjoy books about individuals who do great things. Compare to Paul Farmer, Greg Mortensen etc..
I haven't stopped thinking about "The Man Who Tried to Save the World" all week. This is a captivating and tragic true story, and it's the scariest book I've read in some time.
Interesting story, especially since he is from Dallas. The way it was told as a 3rd person biography was a little dry at parts. Overall a great story and mystery.
Really interesting perspective on the business of relief, the life of Fred Cuny and the conflict in Chechnya.
Interesting book about an idealist who gets caught up in the wrong war at the wrong time...
Great read - constantly keep the page turning despite it being a non-fiction.
Diana Shook
What a remarkable man, Fred Cuny. Probably going to read this again.
This was heartbreaking and awe inspiring all at the same time.
ntriguing and puzzling account of the death of Fred Cluny.
Sandra D
Amazing story, well told. I couldn't put it down.
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