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A Burnt-Out Case (1960)

de Graham Greene

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

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Querry, a world famous architect, is the victim of a terrible attack of indifference- he no longer finds meaning in art of pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously at a Congo leper village, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper who has gone through a stage of mutilation. However, as Querry loses himself in work for the lepers his disease of mind slowly approaches a cure. Then the white community finds out who Querry is...… (mais)
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A Book That Came Out The Year You Were Born

Graham Greene is one of my favorite authors, primarily because his books (at least those I've read) expound a central theme through well-executed literary devices, providing a richer reading experience. In A Burnt-Out Case, Greene uses leprosy, particularly the physical scars left after the disease has run its course, as a motif for the emotional damage the novel's protagonist, Querry*, has suffered as a result of his decadent lifestyle. In his masterpieces (The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter), this style is the subtle backdrop to the action of the story. In A Burnt-Out Case, it overtakes the story, to the novel's detriment. The ancillary characters actually verbalize the motif, likening Querry to his servant, Deo Gratis, who is a cured victim of leprosy. This heavy-handed approach gives the novel a didactic quality that distracts from an otherwise interesting exploration of faith through the viewpoints of both devout believers and atheists. Even the novel's two epigrams bludgeon the reader with an explanation of the book, making the process of reading it one of observation rather than of discovery.

I won't belabor the novel's other deficiencies (extended dialogue and monologue also serve as thematic cudgels), because it is still a good read. The climax results from a series of nondescript events that are assigned incorrect meaning in varying degrees of maliciousness by both the participants and witnesses. A summary of this plot would read like an airport novel, but Greene builds to it slowly and deliberately. When it finally and suddenly happens, you are not surprised, because Greene has lead you unsuspectingly to the only conclusion the novel could have. In that sense this reads a little like detective fiction, where the solution was always right there in front of you.

Although leprosy has been around for all of recorded history, its stigma has diminished significantly. That diminishment seems an apt motif for A Burnt-Out Case, which is an interesting but lesser version of Greene's other works, one less deserving of attention but still worth a read if you have time.

* - I particularly admire the suggestiveness Greene supplies through his protagonist's name - sounding like a form of question (query) and prey (quarry), both of which are apt descriptions of the role he plays in the novel. ( )
1 vote skavlanj | Jan 16, 2021 |
This process of reading the unread books from my shelf is going swimmingly. I found this novel ideologically interesting, if a bit overworked. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
I'm finishing up with the volumes of Graham Greene I've missed reading so far. And this is one of them. Frankly, I'm surprised how much I enjoyed it. But that is always the case with Greene. In starting out his novels, I always think that "this one" will disappoint in light of the quality of those I've read up to then. But then it doesn't. The author writes at such a sustained level of greatness.

In A Burnt Out Case, Greene captures the utter exhaustion with life his hero, Querry, feels. Not even escaping to a leper colony in the remotest part of Africa allows him to escape. Always on Querry's trail is his past. And the leper colony is just one stop short of being far enough away from that past.

The plot and the storyline are especially efficient. At the end, Querry hasn't traveled far, geographically, in this novel. And neither does he travel very far spiritually. Life will not let him. Like one of the mutilated lepers, Querry has no where else to go. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
“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." ( )
  proteaprince | Dec 18, 2019 |
Well, goshdarnit. I'd just written up an erudite, detailed review of A BURNT-OUT CASE, and the computer ate it. So, what the hell, this books's been around for over fifty years, and in that time it's been acknowledged as one of Graham Greene's best. I'll concur with that, being a Greene fan. I've also read THE POWER AND THE GLORY, THE QUIET AMERICAN and THE HUMAN FACTOR. All were simply superb. And so was this one, set in a leper colony in the Congo, with subtle nods to HEART OF DARKNESS and Father Damien. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from the book: "Why did he [God] give us genitals then if he wanted us to think clearly?" ... and ... "Sometimes I think God was not entirely serious when he gave man the sexual instinct."

Yes,there's a lot in here about the Catholic Church and religion, which is true of almost all of Greene's books, but the above quotes indicate that even a great novelist like Greene understood that sometimes even the most intelligent of men are ruled by baser instincts. This is a great book. Greene was at the top of his game. My highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Sep 9, 2017 |
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he somewhat forbidding title of Graham Greene's new novel is a term used for those victims of leprosy who can be cured because the disease has eaten about all that it wants -- toes, ears, fingers. They no longer suffer the excruciating pains of those who undergo cure with their bodies intact. Pain is the alternative to mutilation.

"A Burnt-Out Case" is a fascinating study of the relationship of suffering, especially freely accepted suffering -- to wholeness. Greene has set his novel in a remote African leprosery run by nuns and priests. They have as their unexpected guest an internationally famous architect named Querry who arrives incognito, trying to escape as far as possible from his past.

Querry is himself a burnt-out case. He is no longer moved to design a building or sleep with a woman. His love of women was really self-love, and his artistic self-expression was the kind that consumes the self. Even when he was creating modern churches, Querry's art was inhuman, a matter of space and light and textures, with no feeling either for people or prayers. Now whatever fed his vocation has ceased to exist. In his terrible aloneness and deadness he can neither suffer nor laugh.

The novel tells the story of Querry's gradual recovery, or what would have been recovery if the world he tried to flee had let him alone. But a celebrated journalist seeks out Querry, a fat man who "carries his corruption on the surface of his skin like phosphorous." He wants a story that will have the appeal of the stories about Dr. Schweitzer at Lanbarene. With the aid of a neighboring colon, he cooks up a sensational story which falsifies and sentimentalizes the simple, good relationship between Querry and Querry's crippled leper servant. And then Querry's relationship with the colon's pretty young wife is falsified in another way that brings the novel to an ironic and violent close.

The events, however, are less important than the conversations about pain and wholeness, self-love and selflessness, belief and disbelief show a changed and milder mood in Greene. Though this does not necessarily make it a better novel, "A Burnt-Out Case" is free from the theological arrogance, the baiting of rationalists, the melodramatic use of attempted bargains with God which gave a peculiar edge and intensity to Greene's earlier religious fiction. Speaking particularly of his "The End of the Affair," Martin Turnell once wrote: "It is impossible not to be struck by the vast place occupied by hate and the tiny place reserved for charity in the work of contemporary Catholic novelists."

In "A Burnt-Out Case" the balance has shifted. Greene no longer tries to make both humanity and Christianity seem as distasteful as possible. There is ample charity both in the sense of good works and of affectionate understanding.

The sympathetic characters are the religiously uncommitted doctor with his special sense of what Christian love means and the priests who are more interested in curing the natives' bodies that in regulating their sexual mores, who would rather talk about the practicalities of being useful than about the state of each other's souls. The unsympathetic characters are the scrupulously self-righteous. The most repellent character is the spiritually and socially ambitious colon who prides himself on his informed Catholicism. He is a former seminarian, a spoiled priest, morbidly preoccupied with the rights, duties and symbolism of Christian marriage.

Though she plays such an important part in the plot, the colon's young wife is rather lightly sketched in, as are some of the other characters. This is not a novel of great intensity of feeling or one much concerned with the violently changing Africa which is its locale. "A Burnt-Out Case" does not have the color or richness or freshness of detail of "Brighton Rock," "The Power and the Glory" and "The Heart of the Matter." In its quietness, its retrospective air, the parabolic quality of its plot, it is more like Camus' "The Fall." The protagonist's tiredness and detachment affect the novel as a whole. And yet, though Greene does not seem to be trying very hard so far as the story-telling is concerned, though he is not practicing to the full the arts of the novelist, he does nevertheless out of his own humanity make this a very appealing novel, wise, gentle and sympathetic.
 
And yet, though Greene does not seem to be trying very hard so far as the story-telling is concerned, though he is not practicing to the full the arts of the novelist, he does nevertheless out of his own humanity make this a very appealing novel, wise, gentle and sympathetic.

adicionado por InfoQuest | editarNY Times, R G Davis (Jul 9, 1961)
 

» Adicionar outros autores (44 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Graham Greeneautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Morant, RichardNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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'Io non mori', e non rimasi vivo.' (I did not die, yet
nothing of life remained.)

DANTE

'Within limits of normality, every individual loves
himself. In cases where he has a deformity or
abnormality or develops it later, his own aesthetic
sense revolts and he develops a sort of disgust
towards himself. Though with time he becomes
reconciled to his deformities, it is only at the
conscious level. His sub-conscious mind, which
continues to bear the mark of injury, brings about
certain changes in his whole personality, making him
suspicious of society.'
R. V. WARDEKAR in a pamphlet on leprosy
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Querry, a world famous architect, is the victim of a terrible attack of indifference- he no longer finds meaning in art of pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously at a Congo leper village, he is diagnosed as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case', a leper who has gone through a stage of mutilation. However, as Querry loses himself in work for the lepers his disease of mind slowly approaches a cure. Then the white community finds out who Querry is...

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