Reviews

A Burnt-Out Case, by Graham Greene, Giles Foden

msand3's review against another edition

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4.0

"A man with little faith doesn't feel the temporary loss of it." That line could sum up much of Greene’s work, and is equally true of those who have strong faith and those who have none at all.

As with a great deal of Greene’s fiction, I found this novel to be quite apt for the events happening in my life. A burnt-out case in one who is cured, but whose scars and mutilations make it impossible to leave the convalescent home to reintegrate into the world. Being at home and isolated for the last year during the global pandemic, I find myself wondering how it will be possible to go on as normal (or whatever constitutes such) once this is all over. We are all burnt-out cases, waiting for the cure, but then faced with the burden of continuing to live with our various scars and mutilations. All that can sustain us is faith or a vocation (Greene uses that word often in the novel, to mean that which we are compelled to do as life’s work, even as it runs us down). Both faith and vocation can die -- just like love, which has qualities of both. (“A vocation is an act of love,” Greene writes.) When we lose one, it’s a struggle; when we lose all three, we must merely try to survive. And yet that survival doesn’t necessarily make us stronger. It only makes us like the leper who is a burnt-out case: cured, but only now faced with the reality of living with the deformations. The psychological scars can be more debilitating than the physical ones. Only after surviving does the suffering really begin.

Despite sounding bleak, the novel is strangely comforting, as we recognize that we are all burnt-out cases in one form or another, or at one time or another. It just so happens that many of us are entering such a time as we try to emerge from a pandemic.

asmaa_arqawi's review

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informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

dangaus_melsvumo's review against another edition

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5.0

Reminded me strongly of The Plague by A. Camus. Beautiful style of writing.

nihilisk's review against another edition

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5.0

One of the greatest books I've had the privilege of reading. I feel a kinship with Greene after only two novels. His metaphors are genius; his characters both fallibly human and archetypically eternal.

pollo's review against another edition

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4.0

Otra de las novelas "serias" del inglés. Y con todos sus elementos: locaciones "exóticas" (esta vez es un hospital de leprosos en el Congo), un protagonista solitario y confundido, dudas religiosas, críticas al catolicismo, muerte y la obsesiva presencia de una mujer. Aunque de sus libros "africanos" mucho mejor es El revés de la trama.

kathleenitpdx's review

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4.0

This is a well written and interesting story set in the Congo in the mid-twentieth century. A mysterious man arrives at a leper hospital run by Catholic religious. He has reached a state of indifference to love and vocation. The doctor diagnoses him as a burnt-out case. The term they use for lepers who have lost parts of limbs. (I wonder if this is the origin of our current day phrase--"burned out".)
I did struggle with Marie, a child-woman in the story. She did not seem realistic.

lnatal's review

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4.0

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
mistress.
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's own personal struggles with his celebrity as a famous 'Catholic' author and his own doubts about his faith.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09fxr6b

3* The Third Man
4* The End of the Affair
4* Our Man in Havana
3* The Captain and the Enemy
3* The Quiet American
4* The Ministry of Fear
4* The Power and the Glory
4* The Honorary Consul
3* Orient Express
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Confidential Agent
4* A Burnt-Out Case
TR Travels With My Aunt
TR Across the Bridge and Other Stories
TR This Gun for Hire
TR The Heart of the Matter
TR Brighton Rock
TR The Tenth Man
TR England Made Me
TR Journey Without Maps

lucyb's review

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4.0

I loved this book. It shows Graham Greene at his most incandescent and his most coruscating. This book, set primarily in an African leper hospital managed by French priests, offers a brilliant critique of imperialism, a compassionate look at the practice of medicine, and a moving, nuanced meditation on vocation. Querry, the "burnt-out case," comes to the hospital looking for nothing, and finds a richer and more diverse communal life than he's ever had before. The book isn't as tightly plotted as some of Greene's more famous works, but its cast of characters is remarkable, from the priests, to the hospital's warm-hearted, atheist doctor, to the married colonists in Luc, the perceptive leper Deo Gratias, and the grotesque English journalist. The book combines absurdity and insight in Greene's distinctive and beautiful idiom.
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