Breaking the Rules: Working for the UN Can Be Fun. And it Can Also Do Some Good Provided One Is Ready to Lie, Fib, Obfuscate and Break All the Rules, Alexander Casella, Tricorne, 30 €

Tracing his life, first as a journalist and then as an agent of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Alexander Casella brings us back into some of the most relevant events of our contemporary history: the war in Vietnam and the Cold War period. Casella was born in Naples, Italy, but grew up in Geneva where he fled in 1943 as a refugee, being the son of a Jewish pianist and choreographer from Prague. He is flattered when someone describes him as “the Swiss cynic,” when cynicism is interpreted as a lack of trust in the motivation of others and in particular “of those who claim to act for selfless or lofty motives.” From Hanoi to Beirut and from New York to Bangkok, the author describes his two decades of career on the frontline of humanitarian action in an exceptional narrative style. No one is safe from his critical analysis. Including himself. Self-righteous, dull and careerist characters stand out from the humanitarian world he portrays. His writing is funny, provocative, and full of references to details that can hardly be found anywhere else. Casella tells a story where comedy and tragedy harmoniously alternate, keeping the reader totally fascinated by his incredible life. In the end, despite a picture where mediocracy and lack of accountability seem to rule in the international organizations, the author gives his readers hope, and shows that “working for UN can be fun and that something good can still be done if one is ready to lie, fib, obfuscate and break all the rules.”