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A Burnt-Out Case

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  4,157 ratings  ·  311 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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Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever felt totally burnt out? Bereft of the old untarnished simplicity of attitude you once had? At a loss to find any more answers for the monstrous dish of insurmountable questions life has heaped onto your plate?

You’re not alone: Query, too, has burnt out.

His meteoric rise to fame as a brilliant and world-famous European architect means NOTHING to him now.

Just a pile of useless smoking ashes...

His life is in ruIns, because his restlessly questioning mind (and yes, there is a bitter
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to my Goodreads friend Michael Perkins for alerting me to this tremendous book. This is a profound meditation on religion, faith, and the sort of world-weariness that comes over us all at times. The main character, Querry, is a renowned architect--of churches, among other buildings--who travels to a leper colony in Africa because he's burnt out in everything: work, women, fame, life. But he undergoes a gradual redemption of sorts, a gradual reinstallation of care, as he helps out the ...more
Dec 31, 2009 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
Michael Perkins
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Human nature is not black and white but black and grey"

- Graham Greene


Another book based on Greene's actual travels and life experience.

The title is a double entendre. It refers to lepers who have been cured of their disease. but are not ready to join "normal society" and the main character, a world famous architect, Querry, who has had enough and decides to head out to Africa. He has no particular purpose for his trip except to escape his circumstances (a common theme in Greene'
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-tbr-shelf
This short, compelling novel starts with a quote by Dante, "I did not die, yet nothing of life remained." That sums up Querry, a famous architect, as he arrives at a Congo leper colony. Like those lepers who are cured because the disease has run its course and they have lost all their limbs, Querry becomes a "burnt out case." Querry is like a chameleon -everyone he encounters sees what they want to see, so he is a perfect vehicle for Greene to ponder faith and hypocrisy. This is not a heavy hand ...more
Jacob Overmark
Indifference in British
(ɪnˈdɪfrəns , -fərəns)
the fact or state of being indifferent; lack of care or concern
lack of quality; mediocrity
lack of importance; insignificance
4. principle of indifference
(principle of indifference in British
the principle that, in the absence of any reason to expect one event rather than another, all the possible events should be assigned the same probability)

We have met him before in literature, the loner, The Steppenwolf, the antihero, or even Luke
Jul 11, 2015 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
Bob Newman
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Losing Yourself in the Colonies

Graham 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 basica
Petra-X is down to 75 books awaiting reviews
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
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was the first Greene book I read nearly 50 years ago, a book that ignited my desire to become a writer. Reading it again today, this novel, one of the author’s most pivotal, has not lost its power on me.

Greene wrote A Burnt Out Case when he was at the height of his literary powers, albeit burned out by the gruelling routine of generating an average of two books a year amidst his peregrinations to obscure corners of the world as a journalist (and spy?). He was burned out, and like his protag
May 10, 2015 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,
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
'Fame makes a man take things over
Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame puts you where things are hollow...'

Unfair comparisons with that tongue-in-cheek song by David Bowie and co-written by John Lennon aside, Graham Greene's 'A Burnt-Out Case', though on a totally different note, is about one such man whose fame and affluence has put him in a peculiar condition - a psychological counterpart to the physical form of leprosy, a severe case of burnout that has left him without any enthusiasm or
"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 archite
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graham-greene
I do enjoy reading Graham Greene. This story is set in the Belgian Congo now Zaire. Querry is a famous, wealthy and successful architect but he has lost the ability to connect with emotion or spirituality. One day he gets on a random plane in Europe and ends up in the Congo. He takes a boat down the Congo to get as far away from civilization as he can.

He ends up at a Catholic church-run leprosarium in the middle of the Belgian Congo. His lack of spirituality is similar to a medical burnt-out ca
For me one of Greene's better of his deep thought novels. I enjoy his 'entertainments' but have perhaps not had the same connection with his more serious works (or the Catholic novels) - until this one (noting that this isn't one of his big 4 Catholic novels, but certainly partially follows that line).
For me this one was masterfully crafted, the main character was excellent in his shallowness and depth, and his emotional evolution from the beginning to the end of the novel. There were unpredicta
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
3.5 stars

Psychologically '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
Naim Frewat
Dec 23, 2012 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
From BBC Radio 4 - Drama:
by Graham Greene
Dramatised by Nick Warburton.

Directed by Sally Avens

Querry, a celebrated architect of churches believes himself burnt out: unable to feel anything for his profession, his faith or even the suicide of his
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
Sep 04, 2016 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
Feb 21, 2009 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
May 06, 2009 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....
Aug 01, 2012 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
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
Jonathan Pool
Nov 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-20th

Catholicism and faith. A perennial Greene fascination. The presence of the Catholic fathers in the depths of Africa provides the framework for extensive soul searching by the leading characters in the book. Blaise Pascal, Catholic theologian is referred to twice in the book. (161,255) “A man who starts looking for god has already found him“
(Pascal’s wager argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a per
Daniel Polansky
I read this book.
Dave Whitaker
Apr 13, 2014 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
RH Walters
Jan 04, 2012 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
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: deep-thinking
I felt a question from Greene:

Who are the good Catholics? The ones constantly reading and talking of the faith. Or the ones who said they had no faith.

Querry seemed to me to be a seeker and he just might have found what he sought.

I love Graham Greene books.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

I would give this 5 stars, but it's not quite as perfect as Brighton Rock or The Power and the Glory. It's right up there with the best of his so-called Catholic novels though, on a par with The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. All of these novels are similar in theme, asking very tough (and impossible) questions about faith, love, and forgiveness.

This novel is set on a leper colony run by Catholic priests, somewhere in the deep jungles of Africa (I believe in the Belgian
Apr 09, 2011 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
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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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