A Burnt-Out Case – Graham Greene (1960)

A Burnt-Out Case (1960) is a novel by English author Graham Greene, set in a leper colony on the upper reaches of a tributary of the Congo River in Africa. Querry, a famous architect who is fed up with his celebrity, no longer finds meaning in art or pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously in the late 1950s at a Congo leper colony overseen by Catholic missionaries, he is diagnosed – by Dr Colin, the resident doctor who is himself an atheist – as the mental equivalent of a ‘burnt-out case’: a leper who has gone through the stages of mutilation. However, as Querry loses himself in working for the lepers, his disease of mind slowly approaches a cure. Querry meets Rycker, a palm-oil plantation owner, and a man of apparently earnest Catholic faith who does not accept his own nothingness and tries to amplify the relevance of Querry’s presence in that country. Rycker’s wife, a young and ill-educated woman, is absolutely bored with his prudishness and her own lack of freedom. It is revealed that Querry is a famous architect, known throughout the world for his design and construction of churches – which he himself believes have been defiled by the religious occupants. Querry is persuaded to design and oversee a new building for the hospital. An English journalist called Parkinson arrives at the village with the intention of writing a series of articles, to be syndicated in many European and North American newspapers, on the subject of Querry’s perceived ‘saintly’ activities in the village, including a story of Querry rescuing his servant – an African mutilated by leprosy- who became lost in the jungle. … Greene dedicated A Burnt-Out Case to Docteur Michel Lechat, a medical doctor at a leper colony in Yonda in Africa (one of a number of such colonies Greene had visited in the Congo and the Cameroons, which had inspired his novel). … Commenting on his literary intentions in the work, Greene wrote that it was, ‘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 house-hold-preoccupations, where such differences are felt acutely and find expression.’ …”
NY Times: A Man Must Suffer to Be Whole (Feb. 1961)
A Burnt-out Case, amazon

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