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A Burnt Out Case

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  2,294 ratings  ·  135 reviews
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. Howe ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 30th 2001 by Vintage Classics (first published 1960)
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The End of the Affair by Graham GreeneThe Quiet American by Graham GreeneThe Power and the Glory by Graham GreeneOur Man in Havana by Graham GreeneBrighton Rock by Graham Greene
Best Graham Greene novels
11th out of 24 books — 127 voters
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Best of Graham Greene
4th out of 72 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jul 03, 2013 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Robert Wexler
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 alwa ...more
"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 architec
Nino Frewat
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 them
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 character

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 incapab
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....
Margaret1358 Joyce
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 ...more
RH Walters
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 ...more
Dave Whitaker
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 ...more
D. Ryan
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 m
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 h ...more
Don Mitchell
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 Go
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 thi
I've always wondered about Graham Greene, and kept meaning to read him, but it wasn't until I came across this slender paperback with some time to kill that I've picked anything of his up. In describing the experience of a disillusioned architect staying in a leper colony, he paints incisive portraits of belief and unbelief; hypocrisy, honest doubt, and humanity. The characters's flaws, in fact, are so well-rendered the book feels almost allegorical. Greene acknowledges that redemption doesn't a ...more
Here again comes Greene wrestling with important questions related to religion: the loss of faith, the place of suffering in healing, and the insidious disease of pride. The novel takes on the languid manner of the protagonist, Querry, thus becoming more of an opportunity for contemplation of the questions than a thrilling, page-turning narrative.

Most interesting among the questions Greene explores through these characters involves the role of suffering in the healing process, that pain is a sig
A book about the sorry state of humanity and, particularly, about one human who is sick of being a human.... or, of being alive, or of life--or, of something that I can't even imagine being sick of. I don't want to read about people like this guy, even though they may exist and, who knows, may even be quite prevalent. That said, Graham Greene writes really well, so I can't say that I hated it, by any means.
Willie Krischke
Like most of Greene's books, I'm going to have to cook on this one for a while to figure out what it was really about and what I think of it.

Famous architect Querry flees to remotest Africa to escape... I'm not sure what exactly. Falsehood. Meta-narratives; fantasy stories. Fame. Success. Romance. Religion. Maybe they're all facets of the same thing, something I don't have a word for. He's the burnt out case in the title, and Greene frequently equates him with the lepers around him, though I do
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 Parkin ...more
Graham Greene is at his best when he treats his own beliefs with antagonism through strong characters. In this one, Greene toys with the question: do you have to believe in God to be a saint? It's a great book that unfortunately winds down to a disappointing soap opera ending. I could almost hear the organ music of an old tyme melodrama as it ended, which is too bad because it was running so strong until then.
Brilliant sensitive artist (who is unfortunately irresistible to women) finds meaning in an absurd universe by giving of himself in a leper colony, but the press (and women) will not leave him alone.

Heavy-handed use of irony, and stilted, stagy dialogue. Not Greene at his best.
Graham Greene could write about something as banal as going to the toilet or washing dishes and I would read it (and enjoy it!).

Fortunately he writes about troubled relationships set in unstable geo-political situations and it's not only beautiful but intriguing to boot.
Why do I forget that I love Greene?
Have been such a lazy clod of reader lately that I had to teach myself to read again.
Stunning to be reminded of what I love---and the final moment of his laugh was so deeply rending. Am glad I could just stare at the ocean.
I've read a ton of Greene and this was a good one. Interesting characters - hateable, famous and yet self-loathing protagonist who realizes he actually has lived a selfish, self-absorbed existence and does the right thing by running to the ends of the earth to do good deeds until he slips off this mortal coil...The world won't let him off that easy though and they're coming after him to perpetuate the image they all understand rather than let him make amends to his past. Probably one of the leas ...more
Aaron Buer
I really liked this book. I found Querry's struggle with apathy and disillusionment to be quite relevant for me personally and I suspect the same for our post-modern culture.
This was required reading as part of high school English literature course. The first book that really opened up the relationship with the writer. Catching a Greene bug I could not help buying any Greene book I could find and pre-internet shopping meant haunting second-hand bookshops to get what I needed.

The simple story of Query's travel opens up a lot of questions; what makes us who we are, how we are perceived by others, what our words and actions say about us and others with whom we interact
Slogs don't get much tougher than this dire journey. It's more than a series of debates on moral/theological points, though sometimes not much more. Greene filled many of his later novels with that, with Monsignor Quixote being the sherry to the bitter rotgut on offer here. It's a partially inverted Brighton Rock that could only have been written by the guy who wrote Brighton Rock about the emptiness of the fame brought about partly by Brighton Rock. Querry is as amoral an antihero as Pinkie, th ...more
A burnt - out case is someone who has survived a disease and yet is maimed thereafter: it would have been better for him to have died, or not to have been born. So the protagonist is described, a successful architect who flees from his life in Europe to a forgotten part of Africa, only to have his world-famous identity rumbled by a goody-goody Catholic. I think this novel is one about faith more than anything else, and like most of Greene's novels, faith with a distinctly Catholic shadow. How ca ...more
Carl Brush
Here’s another of those third-world Graham Greene mini-masterpieces I always thought I read but really never did. The Power and The Glory, which I looked at a few weeks ago, is set in an unnamed Latin American location. A Burnt-Out Case brings us to the Congo.

The phrase of the title refers to what doctors at the leproserie where the main action is located call the instance of a cured leper. The disease has run its course, burnt itself out. However, as with most of Greene’s work, there is an ambi
Eveline Chao
This was my first Graham Greene. I'm glad I read it because it gave me a sense of his style and I like that style enough to want to read more, but this definitely felt like a lesser work. It's about a famous architect named Querry who shows up at a remote leper village in the Congo because he's sick of success and the general bullshitness of the world and wants to get away from it all. The first maybe two-thirds of the book were a little boring, though it's hard to say how that could be avoided ...more
It's interesting to find an author who can skillfully and playfully alter his whole style of writing completely between one novel to the next. Greene had two totally different modes of writing - the first he called "entertainments," in other words his spy books and more genre writing. The second were his more serious novels, of which A Burnt-Out Case is an exemplar. I've now read one of each type, and totally loved them both! Can't wait for more of both.

But I suppose that's not really a review
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Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Ca
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“The pouches under his eyes were like purses that contained the smuggled memories of a disappointing life.” 4 likes
“The more bare a life is, the more we fear change.” 2 likes
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