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A Burnt-Out Case

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3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  2,953 Ratings  ·  182 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, 192 pages
Published 2004 by Vintage Classics (first published 1960)
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Jessica
Dec 31, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Paul
Jul 11, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
Shelves: greene
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 w ...more
Petra Eggs
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 ha
...more
BrokenTune
May 10, 2015 BrokenTune rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
‘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,
...more
Evan
"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
...more
Nino Frewat
Dec 23, 2012 Nino Frewat rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-fiction
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
...more
Ana-Maria Cârciova
Sep 04, 2016 Ana-Maria Cârciova rated it it was amazing
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. Q ...more
Judy
Aug 01, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it


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
...more
Kathryn
Feb 21, 2009 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, favorites
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
...more
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
Grace
May 06, 2009 Grace rated it it was ok
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
Jan 04, 2012 RH Walters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brax
Apr 09, 2011 Brax rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, africa
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
Dave Whitaker
Apr 13, 2014 Dave Whitaker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
PhebeAnn Wolframe
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
...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
...more
Richard Moss
Aug 02, 2015 Richard Moss rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
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 acti
...more
Don Mitchell
Sep 14, 2010 Don Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Clare
Mar 23, 2013 Clare rated it really liked it
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
...more
F.R.
Oct 18, 2009 F.R. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A few weeks back I wrote in my review of Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ about Greene (and Conrad) looking at Africa through a very white male perspective. At the time I was thinking of ‘The Heart of the Matter’, but ‘A Burnt-Out Case’ is a book – like ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ – set in the Congo, and once again it's white males to the fore.

I admire Greene a lot, but far prefer him when he isn’t banging on about Catholicism. True, ‘The End of the Affair’ has its moments, and I love ‘Bri
...more
Rachel
Aug 03, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: period-piece
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
John
Feb 02, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Albertine67
Oct 23, 2015 Albertine67 rated it really liked it
I love Graham Greene, and am at the point of having to ration the last few books of his I haven't read. I read this at one sitting, and loved it. My only misgiving was the portrayal of the relationship between Querry and Marie; I found her character less convincing than Greene's women usually are. I would probably need to read it a few more times to try to put my finger on what's lacking in her depiction. However, that's a minor niggle with a novel - and writer - this good.
Matt
Nov 26, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
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.
Patricia
Jun 16, 2014 Patricia rated it it was ok
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.
Lisa
Jul 31, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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.
David
Nov 15, 2008 David rated it really liked it
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.
Yooperprof
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.
Aaron Buer
Jul 13, 2009 Aaron Buer rated it really liked it
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.
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The spiritual enquiry in "A Burnt-Out Case" 5 39 Mar 28, 2014 10:15AM  
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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
...more
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“The more bare a life is, the more we fear change.” 6 likes
“The pouches under his eyes were like purses that contained the smuggled memories of a disappointing life.” 5 likes
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