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Sergio: One Man's Fight to Save the World

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  861 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
The inspiring profile of one man's courage and compassion-now a feature documentary from HBO(tm) films

In this perfect match of author and subject, Pulitzer Prize-winner Samantha Power tackles the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose work for the U.N. before his 2003 death in Iraq was emblematic of moral struggle on the global stage. Power has drawn on a staggering brea
Paperback, 622 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published February 2008)
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Another great book by Samantha Power. As she did with Raphael Lemkin in her first book, she brings the person of Sergio Vieira de Mello to life, while giving the history of an institution - in this book, the UN, while in her first book, the concept of genocide.

In the book we can follow the transformation of Vieira de Mello's approach toward his work as he deals with the facts on the ground in places such as Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, and finally Iraq. Power also points out the
Julia Rosa
Feb 01, 2015 Julia Rosa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Chorei a morte do Sérgio como quem chora a morte de um amigo.
Um livro essencial pra pensar o que a ONU precisa mudar (e o que o mundo precisa mudar) pra que funcione como se propôs a funcionar na sua criação.
Ashley Clark
Mar 25, 2016 Ashley Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Hey Girl. What you readin? Why you cryin?" says the man sitting on the hood of his car to me.
"Just a book about the UN," I say as I walk briskly home.

When this book started, I could not control my eye-rolls. I have read a few books about aggrandized heroes who often forget that their being male allows them to act in ways that would be intolerable in the opposite sex. And, don't get me wrong- Sergio does this. Samantha Power does not shy away from his less savory side: the neglect of his childre
Jul 03, 2012 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book had an extremely powerful impression on me. For one, the life of Sergio Vierea de Mello was an incredible study of philosophy in action and metamorphosis. His ideals for how the UN could be a force for good and positive change, could help people in times of need, could bring together forces that were opposed, and could solve the problems of a not particularly pleasant human civilization are on display. A complex man (who isn't?), his mission and passion for life and peace coupled with
Sergio Vieira de Mello was undoubtedly an interesting person who drew a wide range of people (including Samantha Power) into his orbit over the years he worked for the UN in places like Kosovo, East Timor, and Iraq. I expected the book to embody more of the charisma and intelligence and warmth that the man must have had, to bring this larger-than-life figure right into the room with the reader. It mostly failed in that regard, feeling dry and academic, especially for the first half. It picks up ...more
Read the STOP SMILING review of Chasing the Flame:

A few months ago, a friend invited me to brunch and I declined. My explanation: I needed to finish reading, for review, Samantha Power’s new 640-page biography of the late international diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.

“Sergio... who?” she asked. “You know,” I huffed, hoping she’d snap to recall: Of course! Vieira de Mello! The all-world geopolitical problem-solving badass! Instead, she said something about pancakes.

She must have had at least hear
Oct 15, 2015 Ronnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book.."Chasing the Flame" is so well written...even-handed and honest ....that it becomes a tale that surrounds the reader to the point that when tearing oneself from the pages...a sense of dizziness occurs simply because of the realness of the moments which Samantha catches. Sure the first five chapters were boring...but suddenly the narrative grabs you and won't let go....I have read loads of Vietnam....Cambodia...Kosovo.....East Timor.....Rwanda....Iraq.....but what was missing Sam suppl ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard, met Sergio Vieira de Mello when she was a journalist in Bosnia in 1994. Although he charmed her as he did everyone else, she has written a balanced biography of the flawed but dedicated and likable man. While Power impressed the critics with her research, she failed to convince all of them of her arguments. Several reviewers also noted that Power's writing, laden with detail and subtle layering, doesn't rise to the level of her Pulitzer Prize

Jul 05, 2016 Orlaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The US decide to depose Saddam. Their military power overruns the country in weeks. Then they decide to remove all Baathists from the civil service, leaving nobody behind with any knowledge or capability of keeping institutions like banks, hospitals, traffic management, going. They also decommission the entire Iraqi army, leaving the nation without any security. All this without having any equipment or forces to deal with an insurgency. Then they refuse to hold early elections, because they want ...more
Kevin McAllister
Chasing The Flame was one of the most depressing and tragic books I've ever read. Sergio Vieira de Mello dedicated his entire life to The United Nations, striving to improve the lives of millions of persecuted and impoverished people throughout the world. And Vieira de Mello didn't spend decades behind a desk in New York or Geneva like many other UN workers. He risked his life, time and time again, in some of the most war torn corners of the world. How many can say they gave personal hand to han ...more
Feb 12, 2014 Nhu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humanitarianism
Whenever I read a book, there are different aspects that contribute to the rating and the reception of the book, including the technical skills, the author's style, and the content/subject matter.

In relation to this book, the content/subject matter far outweighs all other factors. I was introduced to Sergio Vieira de Mello in the Spring of 2012 in a presentation in my peace studies senior seminar class, and he has fascinated me ever since. You can say I have a celebrity crush on him; he's one of
Chasing the Flame examines the role of the UN in world politics through the life of Sergio Viera de Mello, a Brazilian-born official who spent his career in the UN. He started his career there working for the UNHCR in 1969. He served in Bangladesh, Lebanon, Rwanda, Cambodia, East Timor, the Balkans, and Iraq.

In 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon in response to Palestinian attacks in northern Israel, Viera de Mello was serving as the senior political adviser to the UN interim force in Lebanon, loca
Sep 09, 2010 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good book that somewhat radically changed my notion of what the UN does and its importance. A few points really struck me:

• Member nations seem silly when they attack the UN for being weak. The UN is exactly as strong if they want it to be. If member nations wanted the UN to be stronger; they could make it stronger.
• The UN is constantly walking the line between humanitarian force and peacekeeping/security force. In areas of conflict, being too aggressive with their role as peacekeepers
Jun 20, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been a bit unnaturally obsessed with Sergio Vieira de Mello since his tragic death in Baghdad in 2003. Although I knew little about his UN work pre-Iraq (which included stints in Lebanon, Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and East Timor), he had seemed to me at the time to be the one sane (and articulate...and charismatic) foreign policy voice in a sea of Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Bremer madness. This book -- an impeccably researched, brilliantly organized biography -- not only gave me insight into Vieira ...more
Jul 26, 2009 Doverdiatom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You will learn how to deal with people, if nothing else!
I cannot say the story was inspiring, but it was a good read.

Not inspiring:I don't care how inspiring everyone says his life was... He was a mama's boy who treated women like objects: i.e.- his wife was worthy of typing his thesis but he could not be faithful to her? come on... enough said.

Good read: Not dry at all compared to the other textbooks and journals I have been reading lately. But, if you have been reading purely fiction, you
Jul 26, 2010 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me over a year to read this book. Over this year I would read about the different tragedies that Sergio was assigned to, delaying the end of his story. I held some boyish desire for Sergio's story to live on, possibly rejecting the inevitable part of the book where his story would end.
I enjoyed being introduced to the world of global negotiations and support. I could see in every conflict a teetering struggle for cultural respect and what can happen when ideals clash. This book revealed
Dec 29, 2013 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
This book started a little slow for me, and I ended up putting it down for a few months. However, once I picked it back up and got deeper into the book, I couldn't put it down. The book follows the life of Sergio Viera de Mello, a Brazilian who spent his entire career working for the United Nations. His appointments in the UN, which focused on providing humanitarian relief to refugees and preserving human rights, took him to difficult/dangerous locations throughout the world, including Lebanon, ...more
Christopher Hinton
No good deed goes unpunished.

Promoting the rights and welfare of the refugee is only popular among governments and the ruling classes when it benefits them politically. Money is sparse, influence is sparser, and the people who work tirelessly for the future of others are under incredible stress, with their lives and well being often under threat.

"Sergio" paints a grim, if hopeful picture for global philanthropy in war-torn countries. As a leader in the U.N. refugee commission, de Mello seemed to
Mar 18, 2010 FiveBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Edward Mortimer has chosen to discuss Samantha Power’s Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject – The UN, saying that:

In the course of her career Power got to know Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was a Brazilian, brilliant UN official. Kofi Annan sent him as the UN representative to Baghdad, after the American invasion in 2003. He was blown up there. The book is very interesting because it’s about a very interesting man, but also you f
John Huber
There were certainly aspects of the book that I enjoyed, but the story generally failed to capture my interest on a consistent basis. I can't decide if my lack of interest was rooted in Power's style, in the subject of the book (a former UN official who died in Iraq during the US occupation), or in my relative lack of knowledge and interest regarding the UN and modern global NGOs. Probably a bit of both. For the most part, Power spends the right amount of time in the right places, but I thought ...more
Oct 27, 2014 martha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first of the pre-gradschool books assigned on my summer reading list: this was an excellent choice. It provided tons of food for thought about the UN, the relationship between development and security, post-conflict transitions, the relationship between humanitarian efforts and human rights, and lots of other challenges of working in the international arena. It definitely changed my thinking in certain arenas.

I also learned a great deal about conflicts and regions I'd been sketchy on before:
May 28, 2009 mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers and even those who don't
The "Flame" is, I think, the drive to self-actualize--which Sergio had mastered by the time of his death on August 19, 2003, in Baghdad. He died a slow death, buried in rubble, the target of an al Qaeda attack. This is his story. It is not surprising to me that self-actualization and "the fight to save the world" are linked. Vieira de Mello was an extraordinary man, who worked for the United Nations his entire adult life. It is a tragedy that he was killed at the age of fifty-four.

Most of us don
Aug 01, 2010 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The life of Sergio Vieira de Mello is nothing short of remarkable. Samantha Power created a compelling and meticulously researched biography that revealed the complexities that surrounded the life of a true hero in the UN system and in the lives of people impacted by conflict around the globe. Power described the challenges faced in some of the UN’s direst missions (Cambodia, Mozambique, Lebanon, Bosnia, Rwanda/DRC, Kosovo, East Timor and Iraq), and she illuminated Vieira de Mello’s evolving phi ...more
A compelling tour of recent major conflicts-- places where all has broken down and the UN has tried to help sew back the fabric of civil life. Samantha Power paints a nuanced portrait of Sergio, charming, smart, knows how to recruit others to his cause, yet also unable to alienate people, at times and say what needs to be said. She interweaves his public story, his rise through the UN bureaucracy and his private life-- a ladies man who neglects his family, because he is so committed to humanitar ...more
May 05, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A powerful, inspiring but ultimately tragic story. De Mello was famous for his ability to charm dictators and gunmen for the benefit of the refugees he was tasked with aiding. It's all too telling that this famous charm also worked on the notoriously anti-UN President George W. Bush.
The final chapters leading up to his death in Baghdad are the most gripping, and his actual death is a sad metaphor for not only the flaws of the UN but the entire misadventure in Iraq. De Mello miraculously survive
Michael VanZandt
Well, I certainly do love Samantha Power's work. I find myself well-in-line with her own beliefs and views on foreign policy. Sergio Vieira de Mello is a compelling figure, and I applaud Power's intentions in writing this book.

This book though falls short of fulfilling Power's mission. Power has three goals in writing this book: portray more internationally-minded figures, like Sergio, and less emphasis on archaic models, such as General Patton and MacArthur; place importance on negotiating wit
Jun 03, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is chock full of info, and is a slow read because of it, but that doesn't mean I think it's bad in anyway. I really enjoyed it. It's not only the story of Vieira de Mello, but also the story of the UN at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. The reader gets a good sense of the big failures of the UN and its occasional successes. It's frustrating to know how essential the UN is in the world but see how little support it gets from the world's major powers. It's no wo ...more
Oct 19, 2010 Johari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I knew about his death and learned more after watching the documentary on HBO.

Sergio had an amazing career and while a flawed human, he always sought to learn from his mistakes. He truly believed in the ideals of the Untied Nations, trying to work within the definition while never losing sight of the people he was serving or hiding behind the light blue flag. I like the way the book shed light on some of the world's worst atrocities and the way countries/ NGOs/ and the United
Apr 09, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Brazilian by birth, French by education, UN by training and professionalism. Sergio's life story is brilliant, gutsy, idealistic and at times romantic. UN is all he knew professionally. He rose to the position of Asst UN Secretary for Human Rights, but his first love was his assignments to various hot spots around the world, Serbia, Bosnia, East Timor, Mozambique, Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, etc. His life was cut short in Iraq by a suicide bomber.
His life mission was to try to help refugees and
Nicola B
Feb 04, 2016 Nicola B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully written, 'Chasing The Flame' reveals the life of Sergio Vieira de Mello and was nothing short of inspirational and heart-wrenching. The book provides a critical view of the UN system and yet, shows its necessity through Sergio's eyes. The reader is provided with in-depth historical and strategic information on conflicts in Cambodia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Iraq, presented in a captivating manner. Highly recommended to humanitarian and development workers, critics and proponen ...more
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Samantha Power is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writer, and academic. She is affiliated with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School, holding the position of Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy.

A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. From 1
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