A remote leproserie in the Congo is the place where the protagonists meet in this novel by Graham Greene: Dr Colin, Querry, the Ryckers, Parkinson and Father Thomas. In the author's own words, in a letter addressed to Docteur Michel Lechat, the situation in the novel is an attempt to give dramatic expression to various types of belief, half belief and non-belief, in the kind of setting removed from world politics and household-preoccupations, where such differences are felt acutely and find expression. Indeed, exigencies of faith seem to be of little help in a place like the Congo in the 1950s, beset with disease and death as it then was.
The corrupting presence of the journalist Montagu Parkinson who comes in search of the architect Querry and who alters the truth to hype things up is the reason why A Burnt-Out Case continues to be relevant today. This is also why this novel resembles Heart Of Darkness by J. Conrad and parallels can be drawn between Querry and Marlow: both have a sense of moral disgust and inner desolation. Thus Querry retreats to a kind of hell, the leprosarium, and finds a peace of sorts there, a respite that comes to and end with the arrival of Parkinson. Nevertheless Querry himself becomes a burnt-out case in the end, like a leper whose disease has run its course.
Strong, powerful prose by one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century.