The life of a United Nations civil servant would not appear to be a tempting dish, but Urquhart's offers real sustenance, served in light and lively style. Placed near the top-as adviser and action officer to all five secretaries-general and working closely for many years with Ralph Bunche-he was involved in all the major crises and decisions in which the U.N. had a role, and made signal contributions of his own to its peacemaking and peacekeeping endeavors. His account of the Congo affair, a mixture of high policy and harrowing personal adventure on the scene, is especially good. Having been present from the beginnings in 1945 until his retirement in 1986, he is able to convey the moods within and toward the world organization that changed with the times: the early enthusiasm, the tensions of the years of high cold war, the new vistas of hope opened up by Hammarskjöld's brilliant accomplishments, the disillusion and sense of irrelevance brought on by the big powers' neglect and the shrill rhetoric of the Third World. He writes with candor and an occasional humorous twist about events and personalities, including the secretaries-general whom he served.
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