The Burnt-Out Case
Date Published: April 7, 1992
Number of Pages: 208
Print Price: $10.08
eBook Price: $
"But chiefly I wanted to be in an empty place, where no new building or woman would remind me that there was a time when I was alive, with a vocation and a capacity to love--if it was love. The palsied suffer, the nerves feel, but I am one of the mutilated, doctor."
"Can you cure me?"
"Perhaps your mutilations haven't gone far enough yet. When a man comes here too late the disease has to burn itself out."
The Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene is the story of Querry, a famous church architect who moves to a remote leper colony in Africa. Glutted with women, money, and fame and having lost his faith, his soul has become as mutilated as the bodies of the lepers he encounters.
In this remote location, he encounters a number of characters whose lives reflect aspects of the book's central themes - the nature of faith, the place of religion, the meaning of suffering, and, ultimately, in what lies salvation.
There is the pharisaical Rycker, a local factory owner obsessed with his Catholicism. In contrast there are the priests of the leproserie, more concerned with the practical aspects of their mission than with the finer points of doctrine. There is Rycker's young wife Marie, lonely and only looking for love and acceptance, and the reporter Parkinson, a pragmatic man of the world. Finally there is the atheist doctor at the mission, a man of common sense devoted to healing, who professes to have no faith.
Although Querry comes to the leper colony chiefly because of its remote location, he eventually starts to find a place for himself there. However, two characters threaten this apparent peace: the reporter Parkinson, determined to exploit Rycker's story for personal gain, and Marie, whose needy loneliness leads her to commit an act of ultimate selfishness.
The Burnt-Out Case is a typical Graham Greene novel in its themes and its plot devices. Over and over again, we see characters doing the right thing for the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for the right reasons, forcing the reader to move beyond a pat understanding of the nature of personal goodness and individual salvation.
As the title suggests, the book constantly contrasts Querry's soul sickness with the physical sickness of leprosy that surrounds him. As the doctor mentions, there can come a point in the disease of leprosy when the body of the leper has been thoroughly mutilated, yet his disease has finally been cured. The question of the book is whether Querry will reach that final healing that comes at the end of the mutilation, whether he will truly burn out the leprosy in his soul.
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
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