Read A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene Giles Foden Online


When Querry, a world-famous architect, finds he no longer enjoys life or takes pleasure in art he sets off on a voyage. Arriving anonymously at a leper colony in the Congo, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper mutilated by disease and amputation. Querry slowly moves towards a cure, his mind getting clearer as he works for the colony. HoweWhen Querry, a world-famous architect, finds he no longer enjoys life or takes pleasure in art he sets off on a voyage. Arriving anonymously at a leper colony in the Congo, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper mutilated by disease and amputation. Querry slowly moves towards a cure, his mind getting clearer as he works for the colony. However, in the heat of the tropics, no relationship with a married woman, however blameless, will ever be taken as innocent....

Title : A Burnt-Out Case
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ISBN : 9780099478430
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
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A Burnt-Out Case Reviews

  • Jessica
    2018-09-10 16:17

    Why am I in love with Graham Greene the novels of Graham Greene? So many reasons... His deep intelligence and respect for the reader's intelligence. He's passionate; his characters fall deeply in love, into or out of faith. Their concerns are very real; their thoughts and dialogue feel so. Their conversations are engaging and not there just to "move the plot along." Greene loves women. You can tell. His female characters feel real, not idealized, not just versions of the same woman. I don't always love them (the lover in The Heart of the Matter for ex.) but I believe in them. And they are not predictable. His novels are plotted but do not race to their end; the construct of plot doesn't peek through like bones through some threadbare fabric. The situations and settings in which Greene's characters live and work, or go to escape, are difficult, often extreme. People are tested, as is their love, faith, integrity. His novels matter. The characters matter: Querry and Dr Colin in this one...the Brothers and the young wife...they're never just types, never played just for laughs, though to be sure there is comic relief: Mr Rycker and the journalist Parkinson are very funny (obnoxious) characters. This was described to me as a perfect novel, and it may be that, if such a thing exists: it is so well-plotted, yet never predictable. It's short yet it feels very dense. Are we picking favorites here? I'll lay claim to this one. For now.p.s. I see I am living my life all wrong. I need to be living & working in one of these places, one of his settings...

  • Paul
    2018-08-22 15:06

    Greene writes books which require thought, because he puts his own struggles with faith and philosophy into his novels. The principal character is Querry, a famous architect who is disillusioned with his work, his faith, relationships and life in general. He travels to the Congo, to a leper colony deep in the interior and run by a Catholic monastic order. Here he makes himself useful and even safes the life of one particular resident, by rescuing him when lost at night. Querry has travelled to what he perceives to be the end of the world; bur he is still recognised, by the monks who are quite worldly (apart from one brother) and by a local plantation owner Ryker, who is very strictly religious. An English journalist arrives (there’s no escape from the press!!) and chain of events is set off which ends in tragedy. Greene sets up philosophical discussions between Querry and the mission doctor, Dr Colin, who is an atheist and is the most sympathetic character in the whole book. Greene did go to a leper colony in what was then the Congo (Yonda to be precise) to stay for a while. There is a fascinating article about his stay by the doctor there, Michel Lechat; in the London Review of Books. The issue I have been avoiding up till now is Conrad and Heart of Darkness. The journey downriver that Querry takes is the same one made in heart of darkness (indeed the same one Greene made and also Conrad in 1890). Greene was reading Conrad on his journey. There are links between the journeys in both books, the centrality of the rivers and the quest for salvation/redemption. Although Greene works much harder to make the reader like Querry than Conrad does Kurtz. Then the question arises as to whether Chinua Achebe’s objection to Heart of Darkness is pertinent to Greene as well: ‘Can nobody see the preposterous and perverse arrogance in thus reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind.’ I think it does. Greene’s choice of location for his novel was a little anachronistic even when he wrote it and he was considering I think a Schweitzer type of approach to faith. Conrad’s novel is more politically motivated and contains a great deal more metaphor. Greene is more concerned with the “human soul” and I think he does as Achebe suggests, use Africa as a prop for the discussion. Orwell’s criticism of an early Greene novel, The Heart of the Matter; that it could have taken place in Surrey rather than Sierra Leone holds for this novel too. It could really have taken place anywhere. The time when the novel is set was just before independence and there was a great deal going on politically (The Poisonwood Bible is set at the same time). None of this finds its way into the novel. There is a good deal of melodrama and farce about the tale. One senses Greene identifies somewhat with Querry and there may be some self-justification going on; especially in relation with Greene’s relationships with women. Nevertheless Greene can certainly write and the novel reads very easily. This however makes the shortcomings more frustrating. The religious and philosophical discussions are interesting, but I enjoyed The Power and the Glory more.

  • Bob Newman
    2018-09-09 11:57

    Losing Yourself in the ColoniesGraham Greene wrote a number of first class novels like "The Comedians", "The Power and the Glory", "The Quiet American", and the comic "Our Man in Havana", to name a few. He wrote others, of course, which did not quite reach the same level. I would say that this novel, which takes place at a leprosarium in the (former) Belgian Congo is one of them. Still, Greene was probably incapable of writing a complete clunker. When you criticize a novel of his, you are basically saying `it's not as good as the others'. A stranger arrives by river boat at a leprosy hospital run by Catholic fathers at the end of the line. We gradually learn that Querry, the stranger, used to be a world famous architect, but owing to a severe disillusionment with the human race and life, has retreated from all of it to bury himself in the African jungles to try to be "of use". He has no wish to maintain any connection with his past, which included a number of love affairs. The fathers don't know what to make of him. They decide that he is just as much a burnt-out case as the lepers whose disease has been cured, but who are so disabled that they cannot rejoin society. An atheistic secular doctor understands Querry best, one of the fathers begins to believe in miracles that Querry never performed. The architect is on the run from just such people. A local colonial settler, who is running a palm oil plantation, noses out Querry's identity and presses his obnoxious views and demeanor on the luckless refugee. The settler has married a much younger woman most unsuccessfully. A certain situation builds up, even while Querry is coming back to life. There is the inevitable, but ironic, denouement. Greene's propensity for including lots of Catholic philosophy seems a bit over the top in this slight novel because philosophy in a novel must enhance, but not overwhelm, the plot. If you are a big Greene fan, of course you should read this one. It's entertaining in a painful sort of way, but with a smaller palette of colors than usual.

  • Petra X
    2018-08-28 08:06

    Do you ever start to read books that you know are really good but you can't get into them? I've been trying to read A Burnt Out Case for days. It didn't work for in print so I got the audio. Same thing. I listen to a bit and come back to it later and I don't remember what I have listened to. So I start again and remember it as I go along so it's boring, so I fast-forward listen to it, put it down. Next time I go back to it, I forgotten it all over again!I really like Graham Greene, and what I have read (and remembered) is well-written and interesting, sort of, but it doesn't hold my attention, so I'm dnf'ing it for now. Maybe I'll remember it in the future and go back to it then.Anyone got any tricks to get through this to where I become fully involved?

  • BrokenTune
    2018-08-31 12:05

    ‘Oh yes, make no mistake, one does. One comes to an end.’‘What are you here for then? To make love to a black woman?’‘No. One comes to an end of that too. Possibly sex and a vocation are born and die together. Let me roll bandages or carry buckets. All I want is to pass the time.’‘I thought you wanted to be of use.’‘Listen,’ Querry said and then fell silent.‘I am listening.’To me this quote perfectly describes A Burnt Out Case - it is a story about communication and miscommunication.When Querry, a world famous architect, struggles to find any interest in life he decides to walk out and take up living in a leper colony in the Congo. Fed up with fame and having to cater to taste of people who do not share his vision or ability to imagine, he hopes that no one would recognise him, and all he wants to do is to be of use to the people around him. However, things don't go to plan. Even at the leper colony he encounters a band of expats who badger him about his past life. As little by little the reasons for his burn-out are revealed, Querry starts to recover from the depression he experienced only to be confronted with the same paradox he tried to flee from. "‘Two of your churches are famous. Didn’t you care what happened inside them – to people?’‘The acoustics had to be good of course. The high altar had to be visible to all. But people hated them. They said they weren’t designed for prayer. They meant that they were not Roman or Gothic or Byzantine. And in a year they had cluttered them up with their cheap plaster saints; they took out my plain windows and put in stained glass dedicated to dead pork-packers who had contributed to diocesan funds, and when they had destroyed my space and my light, they were able to pray again, and they even became proud of what they had spoilt.'"3.5* really.

  • Evan
    2018-09-04 16:24

    "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."Those aren't Graham Greene's words; they come from the finale of the 1962 John Ford western movie classic, The Man Who Shot Libery Valance, and they refer to how a mythos can be created from a lie; how the sad, banal truth rarely stands a chance against the compelling human urge to heroicize, romanticize, mythologize and canonize.In Greene's A Burnt-out Case, his spiritually spent ("burnt-out") and self-denigrating protagonist, Querry--an architect and womanizer who has lost his passions--finds his actions misinterpreted and himself unwittingly proclaimed a hero, even a saint. The irony is that Querry has fled Europe to get away from praise. Feeling prostituted as an architect whose work is compromised and overpraised, and dissolute and disingenuous in his pursuit of sex rather than love, Querry flees to the remotest place he can find: a leper colony deep in the African forest--to hide from the world and from himself, to figure out just who he is and what he really wants to do. Querry is welcomed into the colony, which is run by a Catholic order and staffed by an atheist doctor, Colin, who seems more driven by a sense of scientific duty than by compassion. Not long after arriving, Querry--despite his cynical and blase' facade--commits a simple act of mercy and altruism by spending the night in the swamp with a leper in trouble. Thereafter, nearly everyone ascribes godliness to Querry despite his denials and protestations. His fans include the local palm-oil tycoon Rycker (a self-righteous Christian who follows the letter rather than the spirit of his faith), Dr. Colin, Father Thomas (a priest who questions the strength of his own faith), and a meddlesome newspaper reporter, Parkinson, whose knack for twisting the truth for the sake of good newspaper copy irritates Querry.In his aimless quest for a sense of rootedness, Querry fixates on the inscrutable behavior of his assigned personal assistant, Deo Gratias, a native who has been cured and set free of the leproserie, but who is reluctant to leave and enter a world where the scars of the disease mean social ostracism. Gratias, labeled a burnt-out case because the disease has run its course in its body, is contrasted with and compared to Querry in the novel--both are burnt-out cases in their ways and each seek their respective "Pendele", Gratias' word for a place to belong.During the course of the story, the characters struggle with questions of faith, and the varying degrees and types of adherence to the confusing smorgasbord of biblical, canonical and other religious mandates and precepts--all seemingly interpreted differently according to his or her wont. The fathers, for instance, mostly seem interested in bland practical matters such as accounting and keeping the generator operating, as well as simple earthly pleasures such as card games and wine, to the chagrin of Fr. Thomas, who yearns for a more theological awareness (though not necessarily compassion) and ideological discussions. Rycker salves his conscience and pays his religious respects by donating goods to the leproserie, but treats his own wife in a most condescending way. Some critics of this novel have complained that this is yet another "white men to the fore" novel in which the locals and the exotic locales serve merely as objectified backdrops to a white man's morality play. Such critiques miss the point, I think. By placing white men in a setting in which they are ostensibly altruistic, Greene actually is critiquing white men: white men who are adrift, alienated from a flawed world they created, separated from their homes both in geographical place and in spirit. So, yeah, that's kind of the point. It's part of Greene's critique of white men who have sold out, who are not genuine, who have been rapacious, who have lost their souls and who are trying to find them--and that is not just a struggle for white men, but for everyone.Of the novels I've read by Green so far, this one is the most schematically designed to hammer out issues of the nature of religious faith. The most religious characters are often the most disingenous in their spiritual attitudes and practice and the most heathen are often the most selfless and conscientious. The priests in the novel are not unlike the unethical newspaper reporter, Parkinson, who create saints out of a sinner and who whitewash a bill of goods palatable for the masses (though Parkinson knows he is peddling BS, unlike the priests). Ironically, it is an action in which Querry is blameless that brings him down, ultimately, and again it is because everyone around him chooses to believe what they want to believe, rather than the truth. Such can be faith.Taking biblical allusion to perhaps an unsubtle plane, the downfall of Querry is tied to a woman. The Eve of the story is Marie, Rycker's emotionally abused and romantically unsatisfied wife. Even though Querry does not lay a hand on her, it is his "saintliness" to her that ironically brings him down; a kind of karmic revenge for the trail of broken hearts he left behind in Europe.The novel for about 30 percent of the way is the most perfectly modulated I've ever read, but when the pedantic discussions of faith begin the book becomes less subtle and starts to feel like a philosophical sounding board for Greene. But the discussions are good ones, chock full of food for thought, and, even though I would not rank this quite as highly as The Comedians or The Quiet American, I still can't bring myself to give this less than five stars. Maybe four and a half. I wanted to incorporate the following choice quotes from the novel into the review, but time is short (maybe tomorrow), and I'm off to read another Greene. I include these as an addendum:p.52Querry to Rycker:I once had (children), but they disappeared into the world a long time ago. We haven't kept in touch. Self expression eats the father in you, too.p.57(Querry wrote in his journal, in an attempt to make clear his motives to Dr. Colin:)"A vocation is an act of love: it is not a professional career. When desire is dead one cannot continue to make love. I've come to the end of desire and to the end of a vocation. Don't try to bind me in a loveless marriage and to make me imitate what I used to perform with passion. And don't talk to me like a priest about my duty. A talent -- we used to learn that lesson as children in scripture lessons -- should not be buried when it still has purchasing power, but when the currency has changed and the image has been superseded and no value is left in the coin but the weight of a wafer of silver, a man has every right to hide it. Obsolete coins, like corn, have always been found in graves."p.90Querry:"...but surely there's also something about having to be as little children if we are to inherit...We've grown up rather badly. The complications have become too complex - we should have stopped with the amoeba - no, long before that with the silicates. If your god wanted an adult world he should have given us an adult brain.""You try to draw everything into the net of your faith, father, but you can't steal all the virtues. Gentleness isn't Christian, self-sacrifice isn't Christian, charity isn't, remorse isn't. I expect the caveman wept to see another's tears. Haven't you even seen a dog weep? In the last cooling of the world, when the emptiness of your belief is finally exposed, there'll always be some bemused fool who'll cover another's body with his own to give it warmth for an hour more of life."p.96(The Superior, giving a sermon in local dialect):"And I tell you the truth I was ashamed when this man said to me, 'You Klistians are all big thieves—you steal this, you steal that, you steal all the time. Oh, I know you don't steal money. You don't creep into Thomas Olo's hut and take his new radio set, but you are thieves all the same. Worse thieves than that. You see a man who lives with one wife and doesn't beat her and looks after her when she gets a bad pain from medicines at the hospital, and you say that's Klistian love. You go to the courthouse and you hear a good judge, who says to the piccin that stole sugar from the white man's cupboard, 'You're a very sorry piccin. I not punish you, and you, you will not come here again. No more sugar palaver,' and you say that's Klistian mercy. But you are a mighty big thief when you say that— for you steal this man's love and that man's mercy. Why do you say when you see man with knife in his back bleeding and dying, 'There Klistian anger?' . . . 'Why not say when Henry Okapa got a new bycicle and someone came and tore his brake, "There's Klistian envy." You are like a man who steals only the good fruit and leaves the bad fruit rotting on the tree.' When you love, it is Yezu who loves, when you are merciful it is Yezu who is merciful. But when you hate or envy it is not Yezu, for everything that Yezu made is good . . . "p.135"Would you write the truth, Parkinson, even if I told it to you? I know you wouldn't. You aren't burnt-out after all. You are still infectious."p. 136 querry to Parkinson:"In my heart of course I had left the Church years before, but she never realized that. I believed a little of course, like so many do, at the major feasts, Christmas and Easter, when memories of childhood stir us to a kind of devotion."" the end most women reach their climax most easily in the commonest position of all and with the commonest phrase upon the tongue."p.138"To build a church when you don't believe in a god seems a little indecent, doesn't it?"p.142Parkinson: "I'm going to build you up. I'll build you up so high they'll raise a statue to you by the river...I wouldn't be surprised if there were pilgrims at your shrine in twenty years, and that's how history is written."p.151Colin to Querry:"Wouldn't you rather suffer than feel discomfort? Discomfort irritates our ego like a mosquito-bite. We become aware of ourselves, the more uncomfortable we are, but suffering is quite a different matter. Sometimes I think that the search for suffering and the remembrance of suffering are the only means we have to put ourselves in touch with the whole human condition. With suffering we become part of the Christian myth."p.181Rycker said,"Saints used to be made by popular acclaim. I'm not sure that it wasn't a better method than a trial in Rome. We have taken you up, Querry. You don't belong to yourself anymore. You lost yourself when you prayed with that leper in the forest."p.196Querry, to Marie"The fact that his jewels ceased to be popular with the people in general only made him more popular with the connoisseurs who distrust popular success."p.214 (Querry to Marie Rycker, about the nuns)"Oh, they are professionals. They believe anything. Even the Holy House of Loretto. They ask us to believe too much and then we believe less and less.""You can brainwash yourself into anything you want – even into marriage or a vocation...Then the years pass and the marriage or the vocation fails and it's better to get out. It's the same with belief. People hang on to a marriage for fear of a lonely old age or to a vocation for fear of poverty. It's not a good reason. And it's not a good reason to hang on to the Church for the sake of some mumbo jumbo when you come to die."p.237Father Jean to Father Thomas:"Sometimes I think God was not entirely serious when he gave the man the sexual instinct."p.240Querry: "Disgust of praise. How it nauseates, doctor, by its stupidity. The very people who ruined my churches were loudest afterwards in their praise of what I'd built. The books they have written about my work, the pious motives they've attributed to me--they were enough to sicken me of the drawing-board....the praise of priests and pious people--the Ryckers of the world."p.245Dr. Colin:"Success is like that too--a mutilation of the natural man."

  • umberto
    2018-08-23 09:24

    3.5 starsPsychologically 'burnt-out' and philosophically self-seeking, a world-famous architect named Mr Querry has renounced the world to stay at a leper colony in the Congo; however, his fame still follows him. His mind seems to get better from his work in helping the Fathers design a new hospital building. Compared to his "The Honorary Consul," this novel is nearly equal; however, I found the following amusing since they reveal how explicit and humorless Mr Querry obstinately keeps declining during his later encounter with Mr Rycker whose 'devouring curiosity' obviously irritates him:'All the same, as I said this morning, no one would expect to find you working in a leproserie.''I'm not working.'...'It seems a waste of talent.''I have no talent.'... (p. 28)'... Ever since I heard you were here I've looked forward to a conversation with an intellectual Catholic.''I wouldn't call myself that.'... (p. 30)And so on.Moreover, a talkative English journalist named Mr Parkinson has exchanged some heated arguments with him, notably tried to impress him and Father Thomas by showing off his knowledge by means of famous quotes, but unfortunately, one is mercilessly refuted, for instance:'... No one really wants to hide from Montagu Parkinson. Aren't I the end of every man's desire? Quote. Swinburne.'... (pp. 96-97)Father Thomas began to answer him. 'To be quite truthful until you came ...''My name is writ in water. Quote. Shelly,' Parkinson said.... (p. 99)'It's easy enough to take risks when you are young. To think I am farther off from heaven, etc. etc. Quote. Edgar Allan Poe.''It wasn't Poe.'... (p. 103)Linguistically speaking, this dialogue admiringly denotes such a time-saving, advanced grammar response:'How are you, Querry?' Parkinson said. 'I didn't recognize you when I met you on the boat.'Querry said, 'Nor I you.'... (p. 100)To conclude, from their dialogs and the contexts between Mr Querry vs the Ryckers (Mr Rycker and his young wife), I think they suggest some mismatched communications due to the want of permission to let his wife go to Luc with Mr Querry, the ambiguity of "Spent night with Q" found written in Mrs Rycker's diary found by Mr Rycker who asks Mr Querry to clarify, Mr Rycker's overwhelmed fury leads to his denial of Mr Querry's defensive words, and the jealous husband suspicious of his wife's fidelity has accusingly said why he dares laugh at him shooting him dead.

  • Nino Frewat
    2018-09-05 10:24

    I was given A Burnt-Out Case by a philosophy professor in early January because I was feeling quite dissatisfied with my job and I was considering starting from scratch, embarking on a different track to study comparative literature. Because I knew my professor was a Catholic Christian, I assumed the book would deal with Catholicism; doubtless, the subject matter revolves around faith, but I also had the feeling that other topics were similarly present.The book packs a handful of concurrent themes. Readers of Greene might be expecting to read about matters of faith, morality or politics. I found that the book dealt more with choice, and this central presence of decisions and alternatives that are felt in the insignificant details of our lives, yet, somehow they end up throwing us into different trajectories, sometimes independently of our intentions.On the surface, yes, matters of faith are examined, especially Christian theology. Since faith and choice cannot be separated, in particular, the interpretation of theological subjects, I felt that the fabric of the plot is woven around the characters’ responsiveness and flexibility to their own choices.That said, I suppose that someone with Greene’s experience and unstable life, must inevitably conclude that choosing any course of action, any form of companionship, or even any belief system must seem quite an absurd and random decision.The book starts with an ambiguous European, later to be identified as (aptly-named) Querry, arriving at a leproserie, somewhere on the borders of a river in Congo, because the boat he embarked upon cannot go any further. It is clear from the first pages that he is in torment, for he is unable to smile, unwilling to talk, isolating his inner self to avoid facing questions he cannot reasonably answer.As the story unfolds and Querry gets in contact with the other characters: Dr. Colin, of the dispensary, the order of the Fathers, the manager of an oil factory and his wife, the reporter and his own African servant, we are informed that he lost the ability to love: not his work, wherein he excelled as an architect, nor women, nor God.With the contact of the inhabitants, both Africans and Europeans, of this leprosery, a mild metamorphosis occurs to him: he begins to care, even if fleetingly, for his African servant, a cured leper and he offers his services as a builder to the people working on establishing a new hospital. Though both changes are quite diluted and meager in comparison with what the others are and have been doing in this isolated enclave, yet they form the connecting threads of this plot for they rally the other characters around them. For instance, the Superior of the order of the Fathers accepts them without moralizing about them, without analyzing their motives. The rigid Father Thomas is too enthusiastic to declare victory of faith over disbelief in this man’s heart. The manager of the oil factory glorifies such acts to reflect the humility of the famous Querry; “the” Querry, as he calls him, against whom he would like to measure his intellect and his actions. Following these “heroic” acts, as they were dubbed, by the inhabitants of the leproserie, Querry does not feel regret for doing them, but he spends a frustratingly long time, attempting to refute them, to reflect their true worth, in vain. “The innocence and immaturity of isolation” as Greene writes inevitably compels people to project their own needs, their own aspirations even, to this new change in their environment.My own interpretation of why Querry undertook these two actions does not take me far. As plain as it may be, I assume that the drive behind these actions is the interaction that Querry felt with the people of the leproserie; in particular, with Dr. Colin, the atheist physician who thrives to cure his patients, sometimes against all reason, without the demotivation which such disappointments might bring. Dr. Colin is content with his atheism; Querry is fighting an inner struggle against disbelief. What I liked about the book is that throughout a good chunk of it, nothing obvious happens. The inner transformations and reactions of the characters are what brought the plot to such a climactic ending. Additionally, I liked the equidistance Graham Greene takes towards his characters. I did not detect any judgement against them; I felt they were ‘honest’ characters, acting within a margin of behavior which faithfully entraps them. Perhaps this is why in the introduction to the book, Greene states that these characters are pure fiction and cannot be identified. One has the feeling that he was accurately reporting on real people he encountered.Having finished the book, I went on to check out Greene’s biography [I am a fan of this website on writers’ biographies:] and I was stunned to discover how much aspects of his life, including people he encountered, are represented in his books; this one in particular. For example, Greene hated being labeled a Catholic novelist, much like Querry despised being referred to as a Catholic architect. Another point of interest to the readers of the book, Querry’s love life seems to revolve around affairs with married women, not unlike Greene’s.I think A Burnt-Out Case is one of those books that one enjoys reading without putting them down; I finished it in a couple of days, which is quite the record for my reading habits. The absence of any dynamism in the plot allows one to enjoy Greene’s furtive comments against colonialism, (“Yet in our century , you could hardly call them fools. Hola Camp, Sharperville and Algiers had justified all possible belief in European cruelty.”), his remarks on the specificities of African culture (“Father Thomas, when you have been in Africa a little longer, you will learn not to ask an African a question which may be answered by yes. It’s their form of courtesy to agree. It means nothing at all”), and why not, his theological interpretations (“Bad things are not there. They are nothing. Hate means no love. Envy means no justice. They are just empty spaces where Yezu ought to be”)

  • Bettie☯
    2018-09-07 15:58

  • Laura
    2018-08-31 12:23

    From BBC Radio 4 - Drama:by Graham GreeneDramatised by Nick Warburton.Directed by Sally AvensQuerry, a celebrated architect of churches believes himself burnt out: unable to feel anything for his profession, his faith or even the suicide of his mistress.He journeys to a remote leprosy in Africa: there, he hopes to live in obscurity, unconcerned with the fate of others and to die, but it seems that he may have a second chance to find both happiness and redemption.The story reflects many of Greene's own personal struggles with his celebrity as a famous 'Catholic' author and his own doubts about his faith.* The Third Man4* The End of the Affair4* Our Man in Havana3* The Captain and the Enemy3* The Quiet American4* The Ministry of Fear4* The Power and the Glory4* The Honorary Consul3* Orient Express4* Monsignor Quixote3* The Confidential Agent4* A Burnt-Out CaseTR Travels With My AuntTR Across the Bridge and Other StoriesTR This Gun for HireTR The Heart of the MatterTR Brighton RockTR The Tenth ManTR England Made MeTR Journey Without Maps

  • Ana-Maria Cârciova
    2018-09-14 09:11

    Yeah so... I`ve deleted this review two times until now. God really doesn`t want me to type this blasphemy. Too bad I don`t believe in him, it, whatever so I`ll type it again with more words than ever or probably less. Anyways, I loved this book. As an atheist that still ponders everything in her mind due to what she sees, this book is proof that many people try to find God just because they are lost themselves, scared in their own miserable shell of disgusting hater for themselves and others. Querry, the main character (that right now I am so tired to explain) has the gut to be a shadow in a place that people`s presumptions prevailed over reality. Therefore, this dude becomes God, a tool of their own needs and their comfortable weakness. In Luc, a place forgotten by everybody especially God, few fathers, a doctor, Deo Gratias (a leprous, 'Querry`s own walking dream'), the Ryckers and a journalist Parkinson deny their faith in a way that they think is psychologically understandable by turning a guy that is no more or less than a garbage into a saint. Just like that. Like I`ve typed oh so many times! the fathers who are lonely whenever they are together, find in Querry some kind of 'heaven-sent' to save them from their own carrion (building a monastery, listen their terrible 'life-conffesions'). Whereas, the most exaggerated are the Ryckers. Marie Rycker entangled by her husband obsession of God and rules, hides her 'adorable-young-flourishing self' in a mask of witty muteness. As Querry becomes a part of her life she puts on his back all of her misfortunes and a baby that is not his, while her husband as the best christian ever imagined that he thought he was he thinks Querry is just like him... an angel with respect for God`s rules and wantings. Be that as it may, Querry finds his own salvation in Deo Gratias who being mute didn`t let anyone open his heart for him and disappear whenever he wanted, as the main character always needed. Moreover, specimens as Parkinson (who in collation is Querry`s geminy) makes himself a living, accepting his torment and making money from it. On top of them all, Dr.Colin and his death wife are his only friends. Dr.Colin is too much of a not believer and ignorant to acknowledge even his presence and his wife is the one that puts no questions at all. The reader finds himself being as kibitzer as the others in getting to know Querry:' Will this dude find his inner peace?', 'Wouldn`t this be a too much of a happy end for Graham Greene?' well it is too much of it. You will never know Querry enough but teologically and philosophically speaking he is a part of us all. While we get to know ourselves step by step he already knows himself, as a consequence being unable to live anymore in his own skin. Finding his happiness is impossible for him, as it is impossible for others to accept each other without being blinded by their own joy. Others slowly hurting him as he hurt others... more like the 'Doomsday' of a fake God. So yeah, this is the 4th time typing this but I can proudly say: there is no God, suffer is real but it depends how we take it after splashing our faces with cold water. My opinion. This book is better than any reference book, teologically or philosophically speaking. Highly recommended.

  • Kathryn
    2018-09-19 08:14

    A Burnt-Out Case in now my second favorite Greene novel, close to rivaling A Quiet American, and the only book so far this year that I considered placing on my favorites shelf. If I hesitate at all, then I tend to not do it, but there is something to be said for the consideration, at least to my obsessive compulsive tendencies, mostly under control and occasionally emerging here on Goodreads.The story follows an indifferently affected man into an African leper colony, home to a cast of characters possessing varrying degrees of relgious belief. The characters are polar opposites in many ways. The story is fascinating as these beliefs are put to the test in a setting rife with great human suffering. There are characters in this book that exhibit a quality I despise, the quality of selective hearing. No matter what you say, how you relate, logically explain, or arouse sympathy, some people will only ever hear exactly what they want to hear. I find such behavior near intolerable and it is present in mass quanities here. I easily felt the main character's frustrations. This book affected me, one of those books that cause a little hurt inside, which is obviously not for everyone, yet I'll still recommend this to anyone. Greene's writing is elegant and beautiful. The ending was apparent yet I still had hoped for something other than a tragic Greene ending.

  • Judy
    2018-09-20 09:23

    Some people complain about Graham Greene always writing the same story: a combination of doubts about God and marital infidelity. He writes so well, it doesn't bother me in the least. Most great writers explore the same territory for their entire career, turning the subject like a precious stone, shedding light on every facet. Querry is a fugitive from his own life. He had been a successful architect, achieving fame for his cathedrals. His years of womanizing had led him to decide he was incapable of loving anyone.Therefore he has taken himself to the back-end of nowhere deep in the heart of the Congo darkness. Of course, a newspaperman finds him, giving Greene a chance to riff on reporters, the press, and the gullibility of the public. More importantly, Querry does find a kindred spirit in Dr Colin, physician to a monastery devoted to serving God through lepers. Dr Colin is an atheist and a gifted healer of more than leprosy.I have read every novel Greene wrote from 1940 to 1960 and can attest that he continues to confound me. I had some idea of where he was going in this novel, but he went somewhere else. The end took me by surprise.A "burnt-out case" is a leper who can only be considered cured after the disease has eaten away all that can be eaten away. The victim lives but cannot usually re-enter society. Querry is a moral leper who calls himself "cured."

  • Margaret1358 Joyce
    2018-09-15 12:17

    Greene- what a writer! This book, an exploration of the experience of [another] tortured Catholic, is just so intense. The setting is a leper hospital run by European missionaries in the African Congo. The characters all profess to be living a life of meaning.Their differing levels of self-awareness impact on their capacities to understand the main character, a brilliant architect,a builder of cathedrals, now desperate to shed his past and to live in peace. Leprosy is a metaphor for whatever in modern society has mutilated his natural self. There is irony in the fact that the one person who understands him is the atheist doctor. The book is full of beautifully drawn descriptions, observations and ironies. A strong statement, overall, on the intricacy of the psychic capacity for faith. Could bear a 2nd reading.

  • Grace
    2018-09-16 08:00

    Wow -- not sure why I didn't love this book like everyone else on this goodreads forum!Maybe I didn't quite understand? I was hoping for a story rich with dripping wet details of living in the heart of africa on a leper colony, but instead i just kind of found what I felt was a superficial story of a social recluse who I definitely never connected to (let alone any of the other interchangeable characters.)Don't know why, but it just didn't resonate with me....

  • RH Walters
    2018-08-28 13:23

    Greene's protagonist is a successful architect who longer believes in his work or ability to love. Seeking oblivion in a leper colony, he finds relief being useful to the colony's atheist doctor, but before long his spiritual "aridity" becomes the basis of a fantastic story about his saintliness. The last chapter is a comedy of competing religious narratives that ends in tragedy. As a Catholic writer Greene doubtlessly faced similar situations to Querry, provoking and disappointing his followers. His character Marie muses, "all the wrong people believe in God."

  • Mai
    2018-09-11 10:23


  • Brax
    2018-09-20 09:11

    Graham Greene’s 1960 novel, A Burnt-Out Case poses questions about the meaning of suffering, the penetration of fame, the pain of faith, and the impermanence of love and sex. A famous architect named Querry, buys a one-way ticket to Africa and then takes a boat up the Congo River to its very last stop, trying get as far away from his old life as he can. Amid loveless affairs and a celebrated but unsatisfying career, Querry has lost his belief in love and God and finds no pleasure in art or in his vocation. In fact, he no longer feels anything, not even discomfort or suffering. He has become indifferent and bored and seeks to escape to a place where no one knows him. The boat’s final stop is a Catholic leproserie, a village of lepers and a hospital run by a group of priests. Querrey volunteers to help at the leproserie and enjoys his anonymity. The sole doctor at the hospital, Dr. Collin, assigns a cured leper, Deo Gratias, as Querrey’s servant. When lepers are cured, they are normally sent away from the village, but Deo Gratias is “a burnt-out case” (21), meaning that he has been severely mutilated by the disease, having no fingers or toes, and would have an especially difficult time adapting to normal society. Collin pegs Querrey as a burnt-out case of a different sort. Querrey is eventually recognized by Rycker, an expat who owns a palm oil plantation and has a very young wife. Querrey denies that he is “the Querry,” the famous architect who designs churches, but Rycker promises to keep his secret. Within a few days, of course, the rumor has spread throughout the region to the fathers at the leproserie. They ask him to help design a new hospital building, but Querrey says he is retired. One night, Deo Gratias runs away into the jungle, searching for “Pendele,” a waterfall he visited as a child. Querrey follows him and finds him, injured and near death. He stays with the leper throughout the night and brings him back to the hospital the next day. The experience changes Querrey and he starts working on designing and building a new hospital for the leproserie. His myth grows, and Rycker and the fathers begin to see Querrey as a saint. The more he denies that he is a man of faith, the more the fathers and Rycker espouse his divinity. “He may well be the greatest thing to happen in Africa since Schweitzer,” Rycker says. “And Schweitzer after all is a Protestant” (63). Father Thomas goes further, comparing him to St. John of the Cross and postulating that Querrey’s wisdom is derived from “the grace of aridity” (92). By not caring, he cares the most; by not having faith, his faith is strongest. Montagu Parkinson, a journalist who quotes (and misquotes) from literature, and embellishes his stories for the sake of readership, arrives on the riverboat to do a story on the architect. Querrey reluctantly talks to Montagu and tells of his sordid past, but the first installment, “An Architect of Souls. The Hermit of the Congo.” (132), makes Querrey out to be a saint. No matter what Querrey does, “the great world comes” to him (95). He just wants to find peace, a desire he shares with Scobie, the protagonist of Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, and like Scobie, Querrey finds that peace is as difficult to find as it is for a cured leper to assimilate back into society. “We have taken you up, Querry. You don’t belong to yourself any more,” Rycker informs him (145). Ultimately his past as a womanizer comes back to haunt him, and Rycker accuses him of having an affair with his wife. Greene acknowledges past narratives about white men in Africa, including Stanley’s account of finding Livingstone, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (133), and Greene’s own, Heart of the Matter (134), by having Montagu include the references in his article. Another echo of The Heart of the Matter is Greene’s description of the way the laterite road glows in the evening, “like a night-blooming flower, in shades of rose and red” (120). I’m not sure if this was intentional or not by the author, but I found it interesting that he used the way the road changed hues to demonstrate fleeting beauty “that faded as soon as it was seen” (Heart, 17). In The Heart of the Matter, Scobie considers this time of the day “the hour of content” (17); in A Burnt-Out Case, Querrey notices the phenomenon after Parkinson leaves and “the great world had done its worst and gone, and a kind of peace descended” (120). Both characters are looking for peace and contentment and struggling with the fact that they have not found it in love or in their vocations. A Burnt-Out Case is a good example of not letting the setting become the story. Often in novels about Africa or other exotic locations, the setting can overpower the characters, and that is something I am struggling with in my own work. In Greene’s novel, the setting is certainly important and central to Querrey’s redemption, but it never becomes a cliche of Africa. Like Conrad, Greene places his characters in isolation and on the fringes of humanity and allows them to ask themselves the important questions of life.

  • Dave Whitaker
    2018-08-24 11:10

    Wow, this book is amazing! I've always wanted to read Graham Greene, but never seemed to find the book or the time. This is another book I stumbled upon at The Strand bookstore and bought it for $2. I loved the movie version of "The End of the Affair." A Burnt-Out Case has familiar elements, especially a critique of Catholicism and hypocrisy of the faithful. It centers around a world-famous architect, Querry, who tries to live anonymously in a leper colony in Africa, run by Catholic priests and nuns. However, word soon spreads about who he is and the world—along with all of its problems—manages to find the architect. Although it's a short book, it requires deep attention and Greene writes gorgeous sentences; he sets a perfect mood and I could feel the oppressive heat and felt as if I were right there...which is always a good read for me. The book also contains one of the two best sentences I've ever read: "Men have prayed in prison, men have prayed in slums and concentration camps. It's only the middle classes who demand to pray in suitable surroundings."

  • Frederick
    2018-09-16 09:08

    The edition I read had an introduction by Graham Greene. (That introduction is found in THE COLLECTED EDITION.) The novel was first published in 1961. In the introduction, which I didn't read until I'd finished reading the novel itself, Greene addresses what he sees as a misapprehension, on the part of many readers, that this book is a renunciation of Catholicism. What this novel does do is detail the state of faith in various characters.Greene, above all, conveys experience, and, unlike many of his contemporaries, he gets into the mind of a character on a religious journey. He describes what growing belief, thriving belief and declining belief are like. A BURNT-OUT CASE is set in a mid-twentieth-century leproserie in the Congo. The main character, Querry, has been a highly touted architect, outspoken about his Catholic faith. He's been on the cover of TIME. Like a lot of novels dealing with the issue of fame, Querry's fame is not, in itself, quite believable. This book is written three years before Beatlemania struck, but Querry's dilemma, that of a famous person who cannot escape his fans, is described in such a way as to seem quite real. That is, while I don't buy the idea that a prominent architect can't get away from his rabid fans, the situation itself really does seem real. Greene's introduction addresses his own fame's dangers. People did seek him out after his novel THE HEART OF THE MATTER became hugely successful. This makes sense because a novel can get an author a fanbase. In any case, think of Sinatra and the crowd of girls who almost accidently strangled him trying to rip the bowtie off his neck and you'll get an idea of Querry's situation. He's had a disastrous love affair and attendant publicity about that. His faith is ruined and he seeks an ironic oasis: A leprosy treatment center run by Catholic missionaries. The one doctor is an atheist and the Father Superior is a practical man. Greene shows how the doctor and the Father Superior complement each other and make progress fighting leprosy.Greene's descriptions of the condition of leprosy are convincing. There are a lot of references to Albert Schweitzer, who ran a hospital in Gambon and was considered a secular saint in the popular press. When a reporter discovers Querry has gone to the leproserie he exposes the fact. How Querry deals with that is what informs the action.As is usual with Greene, there are some very funny lines. And, is usual, Greene's descriptions of physical surroundings are unrivalled.There is, as always, a bit of parody (in this case in a story Querry tells and in the magazine article an intrusive reporter writes) and a set-piece which could act as a stand-alone story. This involves a man who has learned to drive late in life.

  • John McCaffrey
    2018-09-20 16:15

    Graham Greene was a writer who put so much of himself - his thoughts and feelings, his inner conflicts, his desires and defeats - into his fiction, to such a degree that the end work is not only painful to read, due to the vulnerability of the emotions expressed, but impossible not to read. That said, A Burnt-Out-Case, a fast, compact book, feels more confessional than story. But what a story - a renowned architect, Querry, drained dry and numbed by society and success, tries to lose himself in Africa, ending up at a Leperosie where he falls in with an atheist doctor and a group of missionary priests who are working to heal and give dignity to these afflicted souls. To his astonishment, Querry also finds himself "recovering" as he helps to build a new hospital for the lepers. His reawakening, however, comes at a cost, reminding us all that happiness, in any shape or form, is fickle and fleeting and altogether precious.

  • Jean-Luke
    2018-08-25 10:00

    “The Superior with old-fashioned politeness ground out his cheroot, but Mme Rycker was no sooner seated than absent-mindedly he lit another. His desk was littered with hardware catalogues and scraps of paper on which he had made elaborate calculations that always came out differently, for he was a bad mathematician – multiplication with him was an elaborate form of addition and a series of subtractions would take the place of long division. One page of a catalogue was open at the picture of a bidet which the Superior had mistaken for a new kind of foot-bath. When Mme Rycker entered he was trying to calculate whether he could afford to buy three dozen of these for the leproserie: they were just the thing for washing leprous feet."

  • PhebeAnn Wolframe-Smith
    2018-09-09 14:19

    Initially I thought that the novel would be a kind of mystery - the mystery of who Querry is, and was disappointed that we find this out rather quickly. I became a bit bored through the middle part of the book with his meditations on faith, love, success, vocation etc. The characters didn't interest me terribly through most of the novel, though I was somewhat compelled by interactions between Querry and Colin and Querry & Mme Rycker.I was also bothered by the setting (the Congo) being a kind of tabula rasa staging ground for Querry's existential crisis. As Green himself puts it in his dedication, "This is not a roman a clef, but an attempt to give dramatic expression to various types of belief, half-belief, and non-belief, in the kind of setting, removed from world-politics and household preoccupations, where such differences are felt acutely and find expression. This Congo is a region of the mind..."It seemed to recapitulate the idea of Africa as the subconscious of the West. The Congo of this novel is really without cultural context. Indigenous people are very much the other, without character themselves and there only to forward Querry's narrative (with the exception of the critique of colonialism embedded in one African priest's sermon). Perhaps Greene is meaning to be critical of Querry's self-absorption. After all, Querry is the first to admit he is self-absorbed, and repeatedly tells everyone he is not acting out of altruism. He is no saint, yet they push this image upon him anyway, because as a successful white man, previously a great defender of faith, who moves to a leper colony and lives and works among Catholic clergy, he can't be conceptualized as anything but. His story exceeds his own intentions despite his repeated protests. Similarly, while Querry tries to clarify to Parkinson the historical and geographical facts of the area, Parkinson is unconcerned. To the public, it's not the the facts about Luc/the colony that are important, but the idea of Africa, the idea of Quarry.As much as I tired of the philosophical nature of the book, I did appreciate its critique of success as a kind of "mutilation" that, perhaps more so than failure, is inescapable. It marks you indelibly as a certain kind of person, allowing you certain roles only (whether saint, womanizer, genius etc.). As I'm sure any celebrity who has attempted to go into hiding or to redefine themselves as common/everyday can attest, fame makes it basically impossible to slough off your past. Public discourse exceeds both facts and your own feelings about yourself. The representation of you takes on a life of its own, becoming the lasting version, truer than the real you. In the end, despite my lack of feeling for him throughout the narrative, I felt a bit sad for Querry, who never gets to tell his own story about himself and have it believed.

  • Michael Battaglia
    2018-09-10 16:21

    Once upon a time Querry was a famous architect renowned for his churches until one day he decided to be the least famous person at an African leper colony. Unfortunately for him even in the days before social media and cellphone cameras it was apparently hard to stay out of sight without the world eventually figuring it out. So let the circus commence!I have to preface this by saying I actually liked this book but boy does Greene wield the most subtle sledgehammer in existence in trying to make his point, which seems to be, "Boy, pious Catholics sure are hypocrites now, ha ha?" Frankly, its not the most original point in the world (unless he was the first person to make it, in which case I guess half kudos and half "what took everyone so long?") since in this day and age we don't have to go too far or too long to see a person lecturing us on morality from a place of pure devotion revealed to not be the best at following their own advice. Real life gives us enough ammunition to take down the hypocritical with a barrage of hilarious memes (whether deserved or not, glass houses and all that) so what exactly do we need a novel that basically proves what we already know?Part of me may be the "oh geez look at these jerks I'm so glad that isn't me" aspect of it, although in my case I wouldn't go patting myself on the back too often without getting a couple second or third opinions just yet. For me its his characterizations of Querry and some of the people around him who aren't using him to prove how much more Catholic than thou they are . . . Querry arrives at the colony as a man drained of all interest in anything beyond making it to the next day and thus crossing off one more day until sweet oblivion claims him off his calendar but as he gets more involved with the patients and the day to day he gradually starts becoming more like a person again, while acting like a fairly grumpy person to everyone around him.I think its that gradual shift that interests me the most in what Greene is doing here. Querry at times reminds me of the architect from "The Fountainhead" in his complete confidence that he's right and his complete disinterest in telling you how wrong you are because he's left all his caring behind in England somewhere, probably wrapped in one of those soggy fish and chips papers. He arrives not interested in architecture any longer and leaves the book as uninterested as when we meet him, for reasons that make complete sense to him. He's already made his decision and won't be argued or persuaded, there's zero point in trying. And the people who work the best with him over the course of the book are the ones who understand and let him work within the narrowly defined borders he has sketched out for himself. There's a steadiness to his reluctance and still plenty of room to move inside that steadiness I find interesting, how minimalist the character is and how acutely affecting Greene makes his "I don't care about anyone anymore and I don't care if you care" stance. There's an honest weariness to it that fits the setting almost too well, the physical mutilations and escalating sense of futility mirroring Querry's internal wreckage and the peace he tries to find for himself. He's not conflicted at all about his new path (or lack of path), he's made his decision and he's sticking with it, despite everyone else being all too willing to throw in their unwelcome two cents.Of course writing a book where your central character is at a grudging peace with himself and his gradual detachment from the world wouldn't be the most exciting prospect unless you like reading about a man whose every action confirms that his initial decisions were correct. To that end Greene populates the colony and the surrounding area with various people who can't understand Querry's new stance and attempt to redefine it (and him) in their own terms, creating the rare book where its possible to not like anyone outside of maybe two people. Is it a coincidence that most/all of them cite their Catholic faith as their reasons for "helping" him? In real life probably not if you go on a church trip and decide that's the best time to expound on your views about the Bible having a terrible plot with no real climax but in most cases no. Here it subtracts a little from Greene's crafted realism to have nearly every person be pig-headed for reasons that boil down to being Catholic (admittedly, some of those people are priests so its allowable I suppose), especially since being massively hypocritical isn't a trait specific to the very religious (Greene tips his hand a bit too much by making one of the more sympathetic supporting characters, the doctor of the colony, an affirmed atheist). It provides a nice contrast to Querry's quiet assistance to the colony (I imagine suggesting who is really the most Catholic) but people like Rycker or the reporter Parkinson are so clearly out for themselves (the former having convinced himself otherwise, the latter not caring who knows) when it comes to using made up stuff about Querry to make them feel better about their own lives that you wonder why the book doesn't consist of more scenes of people getting punched in the face.And maybe it would have ended that way if Greene didn't decide to have the slowly closing net of tragedy form itself around Querry. Its not a development that seems obvious from the beginning of the book but once the ball starts rolling downhill its amazing how quickly we get there. You can argue that the end result isn't as inevitable as the book seems to think it is but its also very likely you're going to get to a certain point and think to yourself, "I don't see this ending well." But what I do admire about the book is how when we leave Querry he hasn't regained his old zest for life, he isn't feverishly beginning to design his masterpiece, he hasn't found a love that rekindles his faith in humanity, he's changed in subtle ways but all of them are to bring him to a peace with his own new core. That's a tricky balancing act, to write a character where the book isn't pulling for a typical redemption storyline and still have him wrapped in an aura of contentment by the time its over. For me, that's where the power of the book lies and ultimately what it seems to be suggesting. Querry at one point comments that for all his work on churches (most of which was seemingly ruined by people who wanted it to seem more "churchy") the churches that really blew his mind were the medieval ones designed by now anonymous people who didn't care if anyone knew their names as long as the design was able to express the power of their faith. Everything he made he created for himself and he can't compete with notion of surrendering to the idea of a higher cause. The best he can do is immerse himself in the crowd. His reasons for working for the good of the colony are ultimately selfish (he's only doing it to make himself feel better and makes no bones about it) but the results of his actions are expressive in themselves and something worth considering in a world where people often seem to be clawing over one another in an effort to make sure they get credit for any deed, good or bad, to the point where it often obscures how much more needs to be done.

  • Victor Shamanovsky
    2018-08-27 13:14

    ".. always be provided when it is required."

  • D. Ryan
    2018-09-19 14:58

    My first exposure to Graham Green. I was intrigued because I had worked for a few months at a hospital in the Upper Congo (ROC) which cared for a number of lepers. This wasn't a gripping read and its themes were a little difficult to grasp beyond the upfront analogy between the condition of the main character and leprosy. But Graham Greene definitely has wisdom that makes this novel worthwhile. Here is when Doctor Collin is too fatigued to keep working. The feeling of the passage rings true to my experience."He tried to speak with conviction, but he felt the heat blurring his intonations. When the man (a patient) had gone he felt that something had been dragged out of him and thrown away. He said to the dispenser, "I can't see anybody today.""There are only six more.""Am I th eonly one who must not feel the heat?" But he felt some of the shame of a deserter as he walked away from his tiny segment of the world's battlefield." (page 104).Again, Dr. Collin gives some wisdom to Querry, the main character, who was once a famous architect."You know I have been luckier in my vocation than you.""Lucky?""It needs a very strong man to survive an introspective and solitary vocation. I don't think you were strong enough. I know I couldn't have stood your life."Dr. Collin goes on to call some corners of medicine "vocations of doom," which I think is still true today.I read somewhere that Greene is a Catholic, but he does not go easy on Catholics. The most likable characters in this book are atheists while the weakest and most despicable is a "devout" laymen named Rycker. Rycker's marriage is probably the most interesting and disturbing thing in the book to the extent that it may have distracted from Querry's journey.

  • Richard Moss
    2018-08-22 10:01

    Greene apparently wrote this as a response to The Heart of the Matter, almost in fact as a rejection of the success of that plot-driven novel.For that reason it begins as a slow burn focusing on faith and the lack of it.Querry arrives at an African leper colony trying to escape his life as a successful architect - and as a serial womaniser. He has no intention of helping - he just wants to retreat from the world.He is the burnt out case - a term which refers to a leper who no longer has the active disease, but does not feel fit to re-enter the outside world.It's impossible not to draw parallels between Querry and Greene - both somehow uncomfortable with acclaim and success. Indeed, in one passage Querry relates a tale which focuses on an author rather than architect - perhaps giving the narrative game away.Querry does slowly begin to find a purpose in his presence at the colony - but this is no straightforward tale of redemption.The faithless Querry and colony doctor are atheists, yet portrayed in a far more sympathetic light than the zealous but self-serving Rycker and Father Thomas.Eventually, a plot does emerge focusing on Querry and Rycker's young wife - who is pretty thinly drawn.I don't think this is Greene's best work, but it is nevertheless a fascinating insight into the mind of the author as well as an interesting, thoughtful and atmospheric read.

  • Don Mitchell
    2018-09-10 16:05

    Graham Greene writes honestly about our human condition: our self-preserving lies, our doubts, our fears. This reflection can be sobering, illuminating, or confirming.In this book, Graham is exploring a man who wants to have lost his purpose in life. He's burnt out. He's seeking the furthest, darkest corner of the world to hide from everything he no longer believes in: God, civilization, love, wealth, and art. The trouble is that he cannot hide, but even worse, cannot disbelieve. The grace of God and his fame sticks to him mercilessly.He goes to deep, dark Africa ala Heart of Darkness but, unlike that book, not to seek wealth nor to elevate his mediocrity amongst other dregs but to flee his wealth and to hide from his fame. He comes ashore in a leper colony. Here an atheist doctor is healing bodies in a Roman Catholic mission while the religious vocationals of various belief states try to minister to the worldly and educational needs of the lepers. No one has the time nor energy to deal with spirituality.The oppressive heat and ennui, the uncertainty and lack of heroics make this book difficult to love, but it strikes as honest and empathetic.

  • Nostromo
    2018-09-16 08:14

    I really like this book. This book is Greene doing what he does best. It is the contrast of the jaded, questioning sinner who struggles to make sense of the God and the world versus the bombastic hypocrite who has it all figured out. I can't help but think that Deo Gratias represents an omni-present, quiet God who won't let go of Querry. And perhaps it was Deo Gratias that prayed for and saved Querry in the jungle that stormy night, and not the other way around. In the end, I believe that Parkinson "believes" and respects the truth about Querry. I find I loathe Rycker more than I like Querry. We have all known to many variations of the self-serving, unimaginative, cruel, self-aggrandizing Rycker's in the world. So odious, and Greene captures his ilk perfectly. I know nothing about Greene the man, but I could not help but think that the story is some how partially autobiographical. When Querry tells his story to Marie about the "jeweler and the King", I felt like Greene was talking to us about the price of fame and the the wearisome approbation about his own Christian novels. Thanks you Graham Greene, for another great tale of faith and the human experience!

  • Clare
    2018-09-01 10:04

    Greene's writing is wonderfully dense, which deserves more than one reading to truly appreciate the different layers. We meet Querry whilst he has lost meaning in his life. Identified as a famous architect, his success has led many to put him on a pedestal. At this juncture he is an agnostic honest man: true to himself. Where does happiness come from? What are our secret motives? Do we feel self-important or self-righteous? Are we preoccupied 'cleansing the outside of the cup'? - I reference this biblical scripture with intent. Is what we profess outwardly in harmony with what we believe? In the style of the character Parkinson: '...for they say but do not perform...(quote book of Matthew)...All the works they do they do to be viewed by men.'(Unquote.) It is in the form of the journalist that I found some light relief from serious soul-searching questions!Greene does get criticism for his one-dimensional female characters. But the women are objective once you've sussed what they represent.